For many years, Texas has struggled to enact any anti-texting-while-driving legislation and many Texas drivers have fallen into some bad habits. While hardly anyone ever openly admits to texting while driving, the numbers tell a very different story. According to the national safety council, cell phone use is linked to 1.6 million car accidents per year, and that’s only accounting for the people who actually admit to doing it! Governor Greg Abbott has finally taken a stance to make sure these numbers are about to take a dip.
Starting on September 1st, 2017, texting while driving is officially a crime in Texas according to the rules outlined in House Bill 80. Let’s get into the penalties and specifics behind Texas’ new texting and driving laws.
What is House Bill 80?
Also known as the Alex Brown Memorial Act, Texas House Bill 80 is the bill that specifically outlaws texting while operating a motor vehicle. In the context of this law, engaging in “Text-Based Communication” is prohibited and pertains to having either read or manually entering information into a “wireless communication device.” While this obviously includes your cell phone, it also refers to tablets or anything else capable of going online and sending/receiving a message.
Text Messaging at a Red Light
Under this new act, you cannot legally send a text message even at a red light in Texas. House Bill 80 states that drivers are not allowed to “read, write or send a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped and outside a lane of travel.” In other words, if your car isn’t both stopped and off the road, that quick text message or email is a ticketable offense.
What are the Exceptions?
No need to worry about the GPS app—luckily in Texas, it is still legal to use your phone to access a navigation app like Google Maps or Waze. This is one of several noteworthy exceptions, which includes:
- Minimal steps required to activate a hands-free device
- Reporting illegal activity
- Responding to an emergency
- Reporting an unsafe driver using a number affixed to their work vehicle
Talking on the Phone
If the conversation really can’t wait, then stick to actually ringing the person. As long as you are looking at the road, and have at least one hand on the wheel, talking on the phone while driving is still permissible. In fact, House Bill 80 specifically states that it is “a defense to prosecution” if you were using your phone to “read, select, or enter a telephone number or name for the purpose of making a telephone call.”
The Fine if You’re Caught
Under House Bill 80, texting while driving is a simple Class C misdemeanor. This means that officers are not supposed to arrest you for the offense—unless you have any standing warrants or paired with any other crimes being committed— you will only receive a ticket. First time offenders will be fined between $25-$99, and the fine goes up to $200 for repeat offenders.
If you get in a wreck and injure or kill someone in accident that occurred because of texting, you will now be charged with a Class A misdemeanor that’s punishable by a fine not to exceed $4,000 or a jail term not to exceed one year.
Get Quality Defense in Your Corner for Serious Charges
While Thiessen Law Firm doesn’t usually handle small traffic tickets, we are here to help, especially if you’ve been charged with a Class A misdemeanor following an accident or any other criminal charge in the state of Texas. Proving that you were actually texting during the time of an accident is complicated and only quality defense can ensure that no stone is left unturned when fighting your case.
If you have any other questions about the new texting and driving law, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and ask us! If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime, contact the team at Thiessen Law Firm for a free consultation.