Effective Sept. 1, texting while driving became illegal across Texas, as the result of a ban passed by the Legislature. The state Department of Transportation said 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, the agency said, resulting 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 state law.
A first offense is punishable by a fine of up to $99, and the fines can rise to $200 for subsequent offenses, TxDOT said. In addition, "drivers should be aware that some cities have additional ordinances that are more restrictive," it said.
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 banned all cellphone use while driving – including hands-free – except in the case of emergencies. Additionally, drivers were already banned from texting and using hand-held cellular devices while driving in school zones. School bus operators were also prohibited from using cell phones while driving if children were present.
To help educate the public on the new law, TxDOT said it will be posting information on portable roadside message signs as well as permanent signs along interstate and U.S. highways.
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