Learn how the new Texas texting and driving law might curb wrecks
In June 2017, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that would make it illegal for drivers to send a text while driving. Violators would be subject to a first-time fine of as much as $99, but that would increase to $200 for repeat offenders.
“Well I think some people are probably saying, ‘it’s about time,’ because we are one of the last states to implement a texting and driving law,” stated Dallas Car Wreck Attorney Amy Witherite, founding partner at Eberstein Witherite, LLP. “This is a law that we’ve been waiting for, and we welcome what we hope will be a significant deterrent to the dangerous behavior of texting and driving.”
The Dangers of Texting and Driving
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) categorizes texting and driving under the umbrella term “distracted driving.”
Distracted driving is defined as any activity that takes a driver’s focus and concentration off the road. This includes, texting, watching videos, chatting with passengers, eating, applying makeup or even reaching for an object that has dropped to the floor of a vehicle.
And per the NHTSA, (1) 3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 suffered serious injuries in 2015
due to distracted driving. Furthermore, an estimated 660,000 drivers use mobile phone or another electronic device as they are driving, a figure that has not decreased since 2010.
The reason that texting while driving is so dangerous is that it takes a driver’s eyes completely off the road, even if it’s just for a few seconds. Other types of distracted driving – such as chatting with a passenger – does not always take a driver’s eyes off the road, but even one second of not seeing the road can lead to disaster.
In fact, studies have found that the brain does not multi-task when faced with more than one thing to do, but instead shuttles between the two tasks, which impacts focus and concentration.
State Laws On Texting and Driving
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) website (2) reports that 14 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands have banned all motorists from using hand-held mobile while driving.
There are no states that ban mobile phone use entirely for drivers, but 38 states and Washington D.C. prohibit newly-licensed drivers from using mobile phones, whether hand-held or via a hands-free device, and 20 states and Washington D.C. do not allow school bus drivers to use mobile phones for any reason.
Most importantly, 47 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands have a law that bans text messaging for all motorists.
Loophole In New Texas Texting and Driving Law?
While car safety advocates were pleased that Gov. Abbott signed the new texting and driving law that takes effect September 1, there is some concern that the law is not comprehensive enough.
Although the new law bans texting and driving, it does not ban drivers who use the Internet or GPS on their phone, per a story published by KCBD. (3) That means that despite the new ban, drivers could still practice distracted behavior that does not include texting, which would still take their focus off the road, and potentially lead to a car wreck.
Currently, Texas bans newly licensed drivers under the age of 18 from using mobile phones and
school bus drivers who are transporting passengers under the age of 17.
After several years of false starts, including opposition by former Gov. Rick Perry – who didn’t believe states should dictate phone behavior to citizens – Texas becomes one of the last states to prohibit text messaging.
Rep. Tom Craddick of Midland authored the bill, and expressed his opinion about the hoped-for effects of the new law:
“For a long time, Texas has needed this law to prevent the loss of life in unnecessary and preventable crashes and we finally have it,“ Craddick stated. “This delivers a strong message to Texas drivers to stop texting, put down their phone, and keep their eyes on the road. Like AT&T says: It can wait.”
How We Keep Your Life Running After a Car Wreck
“The moments after you suffer injuries in a car wreck can be the most terrifying time of your life,” stated Amy Witherite. “And even after you have left the crash site, your life may come to a halt, because you can’t work for some time, or you are having to visit the doctor several times a week.
Eberstein Witherite, LLP
Email: [email protected]