The Texas legislature recently passed a law banning texting while driving. With Governor Abbott’s signature, this makes Texas the 47th state to use to the law to help prevent distracted driving and save lives on the road. But does that law go far enough to protect Texans? Here’s what you need to know about the new distracted driving law, and how it may not be enough to keep your family safe.
Texas Distracted Driving Laws
Prior to September 2017, there was no statewide ban on texting while driving, though more than ninety cities or localities had enacted various ordinances to either prohibit texting or otherwise ban the use of “wireless communications devices” while driving, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
The new state ban prohibits drivers from creating, sending, or reading electronic messages via any wireless communications, and introduces fines that range from $25 to $200, depending on prior offense and the severity of the situation. The new law also adds the ability for a driver to be charged with a misdemeanor if texting and driving results in serious injury or death in an accident. As a Class A misdemeanor, this can result in up to a year of jail time, plus a fine of up to $4,000, in addition to any other charges related to the accident.
However, the passage of this law comes with a twist: it also blocks local legislation that impacts texting while driving. It does not block other, non-texting restrictions on wireless devices imposed by localities, but the legislature is also considering passing a measure that would do just that.
Another key factor in the new restriction is that it does not entirely ban using electronic devices while driving. Using a phone’s navigation system, playing music, or using the phone for other activities is still not prohibited. If the new state preemption law is passed, localities will be entirely prevented from banning these other types of activities—which could mean that the chances for a distracted driving accident will remain high.
Distracting Driving Causes and Statistics
While regulating texting while driving is a good step forward and has been shown to reduce the number of accidents, Texas Department of Transportation statistics still show that nearly 110,000 accidents in Texas were the result of distracted driving in 2016, leading to over 3,000 injuries and 455 deaths. That includes texting as well as other risky activities behind the wheel, such as:
- Eating and drinking.
- Personal grooming.
- Making phone calls.
- Adjusting the sound system, radio, or changing CDs or playlists.
- Adjusting the air conditioner, heating, or vents.
- Watching videos.
- Using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
- Daydreaming or “highway hypnosis.”
Distracted driving is a real problem in Texas: as many as one in five accidents are related to distractions, according to TxDOT. Unrestrained pets in the passenger compartment are also a common source of distraction-based accidents, as is talking to passengers while neglecting the road.
All it takes is a split-second of inattention for a tragic and preventable accident to occur, which why it’s so important that drivers always stay focused on the task at hand. The new texting law is a good step forward for road safety here in our state, but please stay careful out there. The law alone may not be enough to protect you.
Get Legal Help After a Distracted Driving Accident
If you or someone you love has been hurt in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, you may have legal options available. You and your family could be eligible to receive compensation for your medical bills, rehabilitation costs, mental therapy, vehicle repair or replacement, pain and suffering, and more.
To get help from a skilled legal professional after your accident, contact Wayne Wright LLP today. Our experienced attorneys will stand up for your rights and represent you in a court of law, so that you can seek the compensation that you’re owed when you’ve been hurt. Contact us by telephone, send an email with our contact form, or click the live chat box on this page to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with a legal professional today.