It Will Be Illegal to Text and Drive in Texas Starting September 1, 2017
Beginning September 1, 2017, Texans will be banned from texting as they drive across the state. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the measure into law and added amendments designed to keep any local laws from overriding this statewide ban. Those who break the law will be charged with a misdemeanor. The fines assessed could be from $25 up to $99. Repeat offenders could be fined as much as $200 for each offense.
The motivation for this ban on texting and driving is a desire to decrease the effects of distracted driving. It will save Texas drivers from experiencing injuries and possible deaths from accidents resulting from distracted driving. It is estimated that in 2016 over 454 people were killed in Texas as a result of drivers being distracted. Approximately 3,000 individuals experienced serious injuries due to driver distractions. The highest number of deaths and injuries occurred with young Texas drivers.
Research into texting and driving has shown the reaction time of a driver is approximately 50 percent less when they are distracted by reading or sending a text message. Studies have shown a driver who is busy texting will take their eyes off the road for a little under five seconds. When someone is in a vehicle traveling at 55 miles per hours, this is equal to them traveling the length of a football field without looking at where they are driving.
The 47th State
Texas became the 47th state to ban texting while driving. There was a concern about the passage of this law and how it could override a number of existing local ordinances that are even more strict. This is the case in more than 99 Texas cities.
This is actually the third time an attempt was made by the Texas state government to ban texting while driving. A similar law was proposed in 2011, but it was vetoed by then Texas governor Rick Perry. Another bill banning texting while driving was passed in 2013 and had the support of both parties. It failed because the Texas Senate Transportation committee did not permit it to be put to a vote. The most recent attempt was made in 2015. This law would have forbidden using portable wireless technology while driving a motor vehicle. It was defeated in the state Senate.
Current Texas Laws
Prior to the texting and driving bill becoming law, Texas did have laws concerning the use of hand-held communication devices. It was against the law to use such devices while driving in a school zone. School bus drivers, as well as new drivers, were forbidden from using a communication device even if their vehicle provided hands-free operation of it. These laws were viewed as only applying to a select group of Texas drivers. It was believed the laws ignored the reality that all age groups, and type of drivers, are dangerous when they engage in distracted driving.
Law enforcement officers will be responsible for determining if someone is operating a moving vehicle engaged in the act of writing, reading or sending an electronic message using wireless communication. They will be expected to do this at a distance, and some believe it will be a challenge for law enforcement. It is expected that all Texas law enforcement officers will receive training on how to properly enforce the new legislation. Some believe the challenges associated with the enforcement of this law are similar to the challenges associated with enforcing the seat belt laws when they first went into effect during the 1960s. Law enforcement believes simply because something may be a challenge to enforce doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
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