Can You Get in Trouble for Using Your Cell Phone While Driving in Texas?
Attorney Brian White | May 6, 2020 | Auto Accidents
NOTE: We only handle cases involving accidents and injuries. This article is for informational purposes only. Information found in the article does not constitute as formal legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. We cannot help you beyond the information provided below if you have received a ticket for texting and driving.
There’s no denying the deadly dangers of using your cell phone while driving. Studies show us that one of every five car crashes involves a distracted driver.
If you’re caught texting and driving in Houston, you could be on the hook for serious fines for putting the lives of others at risk. That’s why here in Texas, there are significant restrictions on cell phone use for drivers in order to prevent car accidents.
What Are the Cell Phone Laws in Texas?
In 2017, legislation was signed that banned texting while driving in the Lone Star state.
- Potential penalties. For first-time offenders, possible fines range from $25-$99. Those fines will jump to $100-$200 for repeat offenders.
- Increased fine for causing an accident. If your texting while driving leads to an accident with injuries or the death of someone else, you could be facing $4,000 in fines and a year in jail.
There are other restrictions outlined by the law as well.
- If you have a learner’s permit, you can’t use a handheld cell phone while driving for the first six months of your driving privileges.
- If you’re younger than 18, you can’t use a cell phone while driving.
- School bus drivers can’t use their cell phone if children are on the bus.
- All handheld device use is banned while driving in a school zone.
This means you could be ticketed for other cell phone actions, including checking your email or social media accounts or internet browsing.
If you’re 18 and older, though, you can still use your cell phone to talk, operate your GPS app, report a crime, or seek emergency help.
Why is Talking While Driving Still Legal?
Just because you may be able to legally talk on your cell phone while driving doesn’t make it a good idea. Think of it in terms of being the lesser of two evils.
With a hands-free cell phone, you’re able to talk on your phone while keeping your eyes on the road ahead of you.
That’s not the case if you’re using your cell phone for texting, email, or internet surfing.
Studies have revealed that when you send or read a text, your eyes are taken from the road for as long as five seconds.
That’s more than enough time for your car to travel at least 100 yards – the same length as John O’Quinn Field at the University of Houston – while sending or reading your text.
How Can I Keep My Eyes on the Road?
It can be tough to break old habits, but it’s definitely in the best interest of you and your fellow Texas drivers to stay focused on the road.
- Adjust your cell phone’s settings. If you have a smart phone, use the “Do Not Disturb” option. You should be able to do this in your phone’s “settings” menu.
- Install apps to prevent cell phone use while driving. There are many apps available for download that will prevent your phone from sounding or vibrating when the car is in motion.
- Pull over first. If you have to take a call or text that can’t wait, pull over safely and put your car’s gear in “park” first.
- Place your phone out of reach. A good habit to get into is to place your cell phone in your glove compartment before putting your car in gear. Another alternative is to let a passenger take care of your phone calls and texts while you drive.
Keep in mind that your Texas driver license comes with a lot of responsibilities – including recognizing the rights and safety of other drivers on the road.
How Dangerous is Distracted Driving?
At first, it can be difficult realizing the scope of the distracted driving problem. The threat becomes clearer when you realize that at least nine people in the U.S. lose their lives each day because of distracted driving.
Beyond that, thousands more are injured each day – also because of distracted driving.
What Should I Do If I’m Injured by a Distracted Driver?
If you’re involved in an accident and you feel the other driver was distracted, here’s what you should do.
- Call 911 and stay on the scene. If the at-fault driver leaves the scene, don’t follow them. Instead, stay at the scene, call 911 and wait for police to arrive.
- Move to the side of the road. If you can move your vehicle, try to move it from the road onto the shoulder.
- Seek medical help as soon as possible. Even if you’re feeling fine, you need to be examined by a licensed doctor as quickly as you can after the accident. Remember, some symptoms can take days or even weeks to make themselves known.
- Get names and contact info of witnesses. It’s vital that you identify anyone who may have seen your accident. Their testimony can be critical for insurance purposes and if you decide to file a personal injury claim.
- Take photographs of the scene and the damage. If you’re able, be sure to document the scene as much as possible. This includes taking photos of all involved vehicles, all damage to the vehicles, road conditions, working condition of traffic signs and signals, etc.
- Get a copy of your accident report. If a police officer responds to the scene, make sure you get a copy of the accident report. Even if an officer does not respond, you’re required by law to file a report with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles if there’s an injury or more than $1,000 in property damage.
- Speak with a personal injury attorney. If someone else is responsible for your injuries, you could seek compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and other expenses.
While your safety should be your first priority, do as much as you can to document as much of the accident scene as possible.