No Texting While Driving – New Texas Law
On June 6, 2017, Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 62 which bans handheld communications by motorists. The ban goes into effect on September 1, 2017. Although cities in Texas had bans on texting and driving, this is the first state wide ban on texting while driving. Previous attempts at texting bans either failed to get out of the legislature or were vetoed by the governor.
What the Law Actually Says
Section 545.4251 of the Texas Transportation Code – “Use of Portable Wireless Communication Device for Electronic Messaging; Offense”
“Electronic message” means data that is read from or entered into a wireless communication device for the purpose of communicating with another person.
An operator commits an offense if the operator uses a portable wireless communication device to read, write, or send an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped.
It is an affirmative defense to prosecution of an offense under this section that the operator used a portable wireless communication device: (1) in conjunction with a hands-free device, as defined by Section 545.425; (2) to report illegal activity or summon emergency help; (3) to read an electronic message that the person reasonably believed concerned an emergency; or (4) was permanently or temporarily affixed to the vehicle to relay information in the course of the operator’s occupational duties between operator and (a) a dispatcher; or (b) a digital network or software application service.
This law does not apply to: (1) an operator of an authorized emergency or law enforcement vehicle using a portable wireless communication device while acting in an official capacity; or (2) an operator who is licensed by the Federal Communications Commission while operating a radio frequency device other than a portable wireless communication device.
A peace officer who stops a motor vehicle for an alleged violation of this section may not take possession of or otherwise inspect a portable wireless communication device in the possession of the operator unless authorized by the code of Criminal Procedure, the Penal Code, or other law.
What this Means for Drivers
After September 1, 2017, drivers may not use a phone to “read, write, or send electronic messages while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped.” However, there are exceptions to the law for emergencies and other limited situations. If a person is found to have violated the law, the person can be punished with a fine of $25 to $99 for a first offense. A second offense has a punishment range of $100 to $200.
Concerns with Texting While Driving
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, 455 people were killed and more than 3,000 people were seriously injured in Texas during 2016 in vehicle crashes related to distracted driving. Texas was one of only four states without a general texting ban while driving.
Haney Paschal & Romoser, P.C.
If you or a family has been injured in an accident, contact Haney Paschal & Romoser, P.C. at 936-295-3712. The attorneys at Haney Paschal & Romoser, P.C. can help you through the difficult process.