Last month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a new law that will make it illegal to text and drive in the state, effective September 1, 2017. Texas is among the last states to enact a ban on texting behind the wheel, with the enactment of the new law following former Governor Rick Perry’s veto of a similar bill in 2011.
Texas Law Will Soon Prohibit Texting and Driving
Despite the delay, the signing of HB 62 is a welcome update to Texas’s laws on distracted driving. Existing law prohibited drivers under age 18 from talking or texting behind the wheel, but did not apply to adult drivers who choose to text and drive (except in specific circumstances, such as while driving in a school zone). When the new texting ban goes into effect on September 1, all drivers in Texas will be prohibited from, “us[ing] a portable wireless communication device to read, write, or send an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped.”
The new law includes exceptions for hands-free text messaging, reporting illegal activity, seeking emergency assistance, reading messages reasonably believed to concern emergencies, and using certain devices to communicate for commercial purposes (i.e. for truck drivers to communicate with dispatchers).
No-Texting Signs Coming Soon to a Highway Near You
As part of the new law, the Texas Department of Transportation (TDOT) is required to install signs on all highways entering the state (such as I-10) to notify drivers of the state’s texting ban. The signs must state: (i) Texas law prohibits texting while driving, and (ii) there are fines for texting behind the wheel in Texas. As a misdemeanor offense, texting behind the wheel carries a fine of up to $99 for a first offense, and up to $200 for repeat offenders.
Your Rights as the Victim of a Distracted Driver
Unfortunately, despite the new law, people will continue to text behind the wheel. With texting bans in place in other states around the country, sending and reading text messages have remained among the leading causes of auto accidents nationwide. Victims of texting drivers have always been entitled to seek financial compensation, and Texas’s new law confirms the known dangers of drivers taking their hands off of the wheel and their eyes and minds off of the road.
For more information about your rights after a distracted driving accident, we encourage you to read:
- Texting and Driving Accidents
- The FMCSA’s Distracted Driving Rules for Commercial Truck Drivers
- What are My Rights if I Was Injured by a Distracted Driver?
- Which is More Dangerous: Drunk Driving or Distracted Driving?
Speak with an Injury Attorney at Morrow & Sheppard LLP
With offices in Houston, the attorneys at Morrow & Sheppard LLP represent victims of distracted driving accidents throughout Texas. If you were injured in an accident involving a texting driver, we can help you seek just compensation for your medical expenses and other losses. For a free, no-obligation consultation, call us at (800) 489-2216 or request an appointment online today.