Effective Sept. 1, law aims to reduce crashes and deaths caused by distracted driving
AUSTIN – Effective Sept. 1, texting while driving will be illegal across the state of Texas as the result of a new texting-while-driving ban passed during the 85th Texas Legislative Session. The law prohibits motorists from reading, writing or sending electronic messages while driving.
“One in five crashes in Texas is caused by distracted driving,” said TxDOT Executive Director James Bass. “We are pleased the Texas Legislature recognizes the extreme danger caused by texting and driving. The new law sends a very clear message to Texans to put down their phones and focus on the road. We are hopeful this new law will help save lives and reduce injuries.”
Last year, 109,658 traffic crashes in Texas involved distracted driving. Those crashes resulted in 455 deaths and 3,087 serious injuries.
While distracted drivers risk injuring or killing themselves and others, they also now face penalties under the new statewide law. A first offense is punishable by a fine up to $99; any subsequent offense carries a fine up to $200. Drivers should be aware that some cities have additional ordinances that are more restrictive. Exceptions to the new law include emergency communication or electronic messaging when the vehicle is stopped.
For those under 18 years of age, Texas law already bans all cell phone use while driving, including hands-free, except in the case of emergencies. Additionally, drivers are currently banned from texting and using hand-held cellular devices while driving in school zones. School bus operators also are prohibited from using cell phones while driving if children are present.
To help educate the public on the new law, TxDOT will be posting information on portable roadside message signs as well as permanent signs along interstate and U.S. highways.