Texas Law & Texting While Driving
More than 420,000 people are injured every year in crashes involving distracted drivers. More than 330,000 of those crashes are caused by texting while driving, leading to severe injuries. Do the math: that means that the large majority—more than 78 percent of all distracted drivers—are distracted because they have been texting while driving. A 2018 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in January 2018 found that texting doubles your risk of getting in a vehicle crash—and multiplies by five the risk of your rear-ending the car in front of you. Some research results suggest that texting and driving might even be more dangerous than drinking and driving.
Texting while driving can be a lethal mistake. The Texas Department of Transportation addressed the problem of the high number of accidents caused by distracted driving with new laws that went into effect in 2017. In 2016, 109,658 traffic crashes in Texas involved distracted driving, resulting in 455 deaths and 3,087 serious injuries. Today, Texas law specifically prohibits reading, writing or sending electronic messages while behind the wheel. A first offense can incur a fine up to $99.00, and fines for subsequent offenses top out at $200.00. For those under 18 years of age, Texas law had already banned all cell phone use while driving, including hands-free. The good news: Research has indicated that most young drivers incorrectly assume texting and driving is against the law across the US.
Earlier this year, Texas A&M School of Public Health researchers reported in the American Journal of Public Health on findings that states with a primary texting ban on all drivers saw on average an eight percent reduction in emergency department visits resulting from motor vehicle crashes. Study leader Alva Ferdinand, an assistant professor at Texas A&M School of Public Health, said, “This is pretty convincing evidence that presence of the laws has some beneficial implications.” Because the research team only looked at 16 states, they can’t be sure the trends they saw would hold for the entire country. It was also impossible to measure how well such laws are being enforced on the ground.
Some Texas lawmakers, however, feel that the law has more bark than bite. While it prohibits sending or reading electronic communications while driving, drivers are free to adjust their stereo or type addresses in their navigation apps. Some Texas cities have additional ordinances that are more restrictive.
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