As most of us probably know, Texas implemented a "no texting and driving" law that went into effect on September 1. It seems pretty straightforward, right? No more quick messages to friends while sitting in traffic or switching lanes.
However, it's not all that simple. Many Texans have questions. For instance, can you still look at your phone for navigation, music, and other purposes? If so, how will police officers differentiate between texting and doing something else? Well, here are a few answers, as well as some other stuff you should know about the new law.
Why the Law Was Established
According to Governor Greg Abbott, the law was created in an effort to save lives and prevent accidents. Different Texas counties and cities have conflicting regulations when it comes to cell phone use, so the state wanted to make a clear statement: texting and driving is no longer legal anywhere in Texas. We're not the only state that has enacted such a law: Missouri, Montana, and Arizona all have statewide bans on texting and driving, and many other states have similar laws.
Does Texting Really Cause That Much of a Problem on the Road?
Last year alone, more than 3,000 people were seriously injured in accidents due to distracted drivers, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. 455 people were killed, and there were more than 100,000 traffic crashes that involved distracted driving. Statistics say that texting while driving makes a car accident 23 times more likely to occur, so yes, it really is dangerous. Almost half of the people between the ages of 19 and 39 text and drive according to an analysis of House Bill 62, which indicates that the problem is extremely prevalent.
Can I Still Talk on the Phone?
Definitely. However, Texas motorists must use a "hands-free device" to do so. This will avoid any confusion about what the driver was doing while looking at their phone to dial the number etc.
What About Texting at Red Lights?
Drivers are allowed to text and look at their phones while sitting at a red light. However, as soon as the light turns green, the law applies, so pay close attention.
What's the Punishment for Texting While Driving?
Any violator of the new law will face a misdemeanor charge, and first-time offenders will receive a fine between $25 and $99. Repeat offenders could face up to a $200 fine.
Why It Will Be Difficult for Some Police Officers to Enforce
When a police officer pulls you over because they saw you using your phone while driving, they are allowed to issue you a ticket regardless of whether or not you were actually texting. However, police can't force you to hand over your phone to prove you were doing something else. You'll have to bring your phone records to court and explain what you were doing to the judge. Messy, right?
Additionally, it's not easy for all officers to tell if you're texting when you shouldn't be. They will be watching for heads down, fingers moving quickly, and other telltale signs, but it will still be difficult.
How to Avoid Getting in Trouble for Using Your Phone Legally
The best way to avoid a ticket in the future is to adopt the use of a hands-free device. Not only will it prevent officers from questioning your actions when you look down at a phone, but it will also help you be a safer, more aware driver. Many newer cars come with Bluetooth connections and built-in phones, but if your vehicle doesn't, look into buying a Bluetooth device on Amazon. They aren't that expensive, and they're definitely cheaper than a texting and driving fine.