No Clear Answers About a Statewide Ban on Distracted Driving in Texas

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Distracted driving has become a huge problem around the nation. Smartphones and mobile devices allow people to text, talk on A Driver Holding a Cellphone While Drivingthe phone, email, “Facebook,” shop online, and play word games with their friends. Unfortunately, too many people become distracted by their phones when they should be paying attention to the road.

Most people recognize the danger that distracted driving entails, but that’s not enough to actually change driving behaviors and habits. If everyone seems to believe that they are the exception to the danger of distraction or that a “quick peek” won’t hurt, will a statewide ban on texting, cellphone use, and other distractions behind the wheel really help prevent accidents?

Current Distracted Driving Laws in Texas

Currently, Texas is one of only six states in the U.S. without statewide legislation in place to ban texting while driving. Instead, there are many different laws at the state level that place some restrictions on drivers, including:

  • Texas drivers under the age of 18 are not allowed to use any wireless communication device behind the wheel.
  • Drivers that still have learners’ permits are not allowed to use handheld phones for the first six months of their permits. Additionally, as of September 1, 2015, a one-hour course on distracted driving is required for teens applying for a Texas driver’s license.
  • Drivers of all ages are restricted from texting in school zones.
  • School bus drivers are restricted from using cellphones while children are present.

Some commercial drivers and trucking companies also must adhere to federal regulations that limit distracted driving behaviors.

However, many cities in Texas have chosen to further restrict distracted driving behaviors at the local level. The Houston Chronicle reports that forty cities in the state currently have bans on texting and driving, including:

  • Amarillo
  • Arlington
  • Austin
  • Conroe
  • Corpus Christi
  • Denton
  • El Paso
  • Galveston
  • Nacogdoches
  • San Antonio

Houston and many other cities are not yet on the list, but upcoming legislation could change that.

The Argument Over a Statewide Ban on Texting and Driving in Texas

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports that the issue of a statewide ban on texting and driving and other distracted behaviors in Texas is a divisive one. Some have argued that all the different state laws and city ordinances make it difficult for drivers to know when, where, and what districted driving behaviors are permitted. A statewide ban would make it clear to every driver in Texas that texting and cell phone use are never okay while driving. However, other people—including Governor Abbott—are concerned that statewide legislation would be “micromanaging” the behavior of adults.

Some also say that the effectiveness of statewide texting bans is questionable, even though texting while driving is unquestionably dangerous. Because enforcement often relies on self-reporting, and very few drivers are likely to admit distraction, it’s hard to tell how effective the city ordinances have been in preventing crashes. However, at least one study shows that:

  • Statewide texting laws were associated with a three-percent reduction in traffic fatalities.
  • Young drivers between the ages of 15 and 21 were most impacted by the reduction in fatalities.

Unfortunately, the only thing that’s clear is that more needs to be done to prevent drivers from engaging in these dangerous distractions when they’re on our roadways.

What Is Being Done to Address the Problem of Distracted Driving?

While educational programs and awareness campaigns continue across the state, the question of a statewide texting ban remains. Although a similar distracted-driving bill was vetoed by former governor Rick Perry previously, the Alex Brown Memorial Act could pass in Texas this year, depending on the political climate. If passed, it would make texting and driving a misdemeanor statewide, as well as impose fines for repeat offenders.

Additionally, there have been further discussions about how to best enforce existing laws and make drivers aware of the penalties for breaking the rules—as confusing as they may currently be. 

Prevention Starts With You

Prevention starts with you, so make sure that you’re taking distracted driving seriously when you are driving, and talk to your family—especially teen drivers—about appropriate safety behind the wheel. Although most of us drive every day, don’t let familiarity overshadow safe driving. Your hands should always be on the wheel, and your eyes should always be alert and focused on the road.

If you or a family member has been injured in a distracted driving car accident, it is also important to understand that you may have rights to hold distracted drivers financially responsible for what happened—and maybe even prevent distracted drivers from making the same mistake in the future. Contact our experienced attorneys at our Houston office today at 1-877-724-7800 to start investigating your case, or fill out the online form on this page for a prompt response. We will meet with you for free to discuss whether you have a valid legal claim and what your legal remedies might be.

 

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