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Distracted Driving Laws in Texas: Your Guide

Distracted Driving Laws in Texas: Your Guide

Distracted driving laws in Texas penalize drivers who put others in danger while on the road. Across Texas, there are over 500,000 car accidents each year. Moreover, the vast majority of these auto accidents result from a preventable distraction. 

As Houston car accident lawyers and criminal defense attorneys, we understand the dangers that distracted drivers pose to others. That’s why one of the best ways to ensure the safety of others is to keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. 

What Is Distracted Driving?

Per distracted driving laws in Texas, the state defines this as activity that draws your attention away from driving. Distractions vary widely. However, there are a few common distractions in many motor vehicle collisions. 

  • Texting and driving 
  • Talking on the phone 
  • Eating or drinking 
  • Shaving 
  • Putting on makeup
  • Programming or checking a GPS 
  • Watching a video

Even something as simple as changing the radio station or fiddling with an AUX cable is enough to result in an accident. Although many distractions are completely legal, they present a hazard on the road. Moreover, to fulfill our duty of care behind the wheel, it’s essential that we avoid these distractions. 

Still, Texas law focuses primarily on texting and driving. People often refer to this as the “Texas No Texting Law.” 

Texas Distracted Driving Statistics 

Distracted driving is a problem in Texas, and Houston is one of the most dangerous cities to drive in. It doesn’t take much to understand this. However, the statistics help to shed more light on the issue distracted driving laws in Texas seek to address. 

  • In Texas, roughly 18% of accidents involve distracted driving. 
  • Back in 2018, distracted driving resulted in 95,572 collisions in Texas. 
    • 4,325 involved drivers using phones or portable devices 
    • 84,826 involved everyday inattention, such as listening to music
    • 6,421 involved other forms of distraction, including looking for a dropped object, pets, or even children
  • Among those 2018 accidents, there were 2,340 severe injuries and 394 wrongful deaths. 

What Are the Distracted Driving Laws in Texas?

The distracted driving laws in Texas came into play in 2017. This made Texas the 47th state to ban texting and driving. 

The current laws prohibit the following. 

  • “Electronic messaging,” which includes texting, email, and instant messages 
  • Drivers under 18 cannot use wireless communication devices. 
  • Over the age of 18, drivers with a learner’s permit cannot use a cell phone in their first six months. 
  • School bus drivers cannot use cell phones when they drive in the presence of children. 
  • No driver can use handheld devices in a school crossing zone. 

Across the state, phone use is still legal. However, 60 cities in Texas have local laws that make it illegal. Typically, these cities post signs to inform drivers as soon as they cross city limits. 

Are There Exceptions to These Distracted Driving Laws?

Absolutely. In Texas, the state understands that circumstances exist wherein people need to use portable devices in a vehicle. Typically, these apply to emergency situations. 

  • The law permits drivers under the age of 18 as well as adults with learner’s permits to use wireless devices for emergency calls to the following places.
    • Emergency response services
    • Hospitals 
    • The fire department 
    • Health clinics 
    • A doctor’s office 
    • Someone to administer first aid 
    • The police or local law enforcement
  • Texas also permits texting through hands-free technology, such as voice-to-text options. 
  • Moreover, the law permits the use of navigation systems. 
  • Additionally, drivers have the right to use their hands to play music on their devices. 
  • Lastly, distracted driving laws in Texas do not apply to drivers in an authorized emergency vehicle, so long as they use a device in an official capacity. 

Eating While Driving: Is It Legal?

Technically, yes. However, that does not make it a good idea. 

Distracted driving takes numerous forms. Eating at the wheel has the potential to be as distracting as talking on the phone. 

So, when a police officer sees you eating as you drive down the road, what happens? Oftentimes, nothing happens. In Texas, there’s no specific law that pertains to eating and driving. 

However, it’s important to understand the risk. Legal distractions significantly increase the risk of erratic driving and car accidents. Moreover, these actions tend to result in a citation. Whether you approach it from personal injury liability or criminal defense, your best option is to avoid distractions. 

When you feel hunger on the road, your best bet is to pull over to eat. 

The Enforcement of Distracted Driving Laws in Texas

Across the country, enforcement of distracted driving laws varies. Some states use primary enforcement. This means that police pull you over when they see you violate the laws. 

Other states use secondary enforcement. In these states, police cite you for distracted driving. However, to pull you over, you must violate another law (such as erratic driving). 

In Texas, the law permits primary enforcement

Even when you have total control of the vehicle, texting while driving means police have the option to pull you over for a citation. 

The Penalties for Distracted Driving in Texas

When you violate the distracted driving laws in Texas, the penalty depends on your specific case. 

First offense: $25 – 99 

Second or more: $100 – 200

While these seem minor to some people, it’s important to remember the court costs and additional fees. Moreover, when distracted driving results in a car accident, the negligent driver is liable for the other person’s damages. 

Distracted Driving Charges and Insurance Premiums

When you violate the distracted driving laws in Texas, does it increase your insurance premium? 

Not necessarily. This is because distracted driving citations do not add points against your driving record. As such, your insurance provider may never learn about it. 

However, let’s look at those 2018 statistics again. 

In 2018, distracted driving caused about 95,500 collisions across Texas. Of all the motor vehicle accidents, about 18% involve distracted driving. 

Why do these numbers matter? When distracted driving leads to a moving violation or an auto accident, your insurance rates increase. 

Typically, the amount of this increase depends on which provider your use as well as your history. Through an analysis of Texas insurance rates, these citations cause rates to increase at an average of roughly $175 each year. 

With this in mind, is it worth it to send a text or eat behind the wheel? 

Moreover, if you enjoy a safe driver discount with your insurance provider, those reduced rates go out the window. Oftentimes, these citations disqualify you from this form of discount. That makes the rate increase all the more painful. 

Distracted Driving: Nguyen & Chen’s Full-Service Firm

At Nguyen & Chen, we are a full-service law firm. That means our legal team covers a broad spectrum of practice areas, including both criminal defense and personal injury. The distracted driving laws in Texas protect people on the road. 

When you face charges beyond a citation for distracted driving, our criminal defense attorneys understand both sides of the law. This makes us excellent advocates when you need to protect your future. 

Moreover, as personal injury lawyers, we have a firm understanding of liability and fault in Texas. After an accident caused by distracted driving, we provide guidance throughout the claims process. 

Still, the best way to protect your future is to put those distractions away. The fines alone make texting not worth it. However, the danger it poses to you and others on the road means the consequences are far too great.