Is Hands-Free Driving Safe?

Most people know the basic rules of safe driving, but it can be easy to forget them if you’re an inexperienced driver or are in a hurry. Since it’s a busy urban area with heavy traffic, Houston is one of the easiest areas in which to experience a driving accident. Many Houston residents employ hands-free driving so they can complete important phone calls or emails in the car. If you’re one of those drivers or know someone who is, Brian White and his associates want you to know all the facts about hands-free driving.

Hands-Free Laws Pertinent to Houston Drivers

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, one in five car accidents in the state involves driver distraction. Cell phones and other devices are some of the biggest distractions on the road. Therefore, their use is heavily regulated. For example, it’s illegal for any driver to use a cell phone or other device within a school zone. Similarly, school bus drivers cannot use cell phones in their vehicles if children are inside. No driver under 18 can call, text, or use other devices while driving. In the first six months after obtaining a learner’s permit, new drivers can’t use cell phones or other devices in their vehicles.

Most Texas cities have ordinances prohibiting texting while driving. Houston is not included in this list, but penalties for texting or otherwise using devices while driving are stiff. Fines can range from $200 to $500, and jail time is a possibility if an accident occurs, depending on the nature of the accident (number and severity of injuries, road conditions, and so on). Austin was the first Texas city to ban texting while driving in 2009; since then, over 40 cities have followed.

Safe Driving Efforts in Houston

Although Houston does not have an ordinance prohibiting texting while driving, Mayor Annise Parker promises to back such a regulation in the future. In 2013, she teamed up with well-known rapper Bun B for the “It Can Wait, Houston” PSA campaign. Statewide bans have been on legislative agendas for several years, but have not yet reached majority votes in both the House and Senate.

Current legislation up for debate includes House Bill 80, which would prohibit use of all electronic communication while driving, including email and instant messaging. Other legislation includes House Bill 141, which would ban “wireless communication devices [excepting] voice communications” and Senate Bill 25, which would specifically ban text messaging while driving. All legislation would include fines from $25 to $100 for a first offense, with penalties increasing from there.

Vehicle Crash Statistics and Highlights

In 2014, the Texas Department of Transportation’s statistics estimated that one person was killed in a car accident every 2.5 hours. One reportable crash occurred every 66 seconds, with one injury occurring every two minutes and 13 seconds. In 2014, 43.8% of injured drivers were not using seatbelts. Altogether, 237,941 people were injured in Texas car crashes during 2014.

When you engage in hands-free driving, you’re not only placing yourself at risk. The TDOT reports that in 2014, 486 pedestrians were killed as a result of car crashes. In addition, 463 motorcyclists and 50 peda-cyclists were killed that year. Not all these fatalities were related to distracted driving, but the TDOT reports a 4% increase in distracted driving cases since 2013. Drivers are urged to put cell phones and other devices on vibrate or silent while driving or pull over to take urgent calls. Be particularly careful if you have passengers with you, and obey all traffic signs.

Brian White and Associates cares about the safety of Houston drivers. Understanding the legal basics is the first step. Contact the experienced attorneys at our law firm for help deciphering these laws, especially in the event of an accident.