These days, it seems as if everyone’s glued to their cell phones 24 hours a day. Few of us can resist the temptation to check our texts whenever there’s an idle moment. The problem, though, is that this temptation tends to follow us even when we get behind the wheel of our automobile—which can lead to serious consequences.
Drivers who send or read text messages while in their car or truck can, and sometimes do, cause vehicular accidents. Many of these result in injury or death.
Texting and Driving Is Illegal in Texas
The simple fact is that texting while driving is very dangerous, even more so than most people suspect. It’s not just unsafe—it’s against Texas law. People who text while driving a vehicle are subject to financial penalties and, in some cases, even jail time.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Whenever a driver takes their eyes off the road, their hands off the wheel, or their mind off the task of navigating their vehicle while in motion, it is considered distracted driving. Texting while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle is included under the definition of distracted driving. In fact, this is easily one of the most common types of distracted driving.
Distracted Driving—the Statistics
Distracted driving continues to cause serious injury and even death at an alarming rate. The statistics are sobering:
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), distracted driving causes an average of 9 fatalities and over 1000 injuries every single day in the U.S.1
- The CDC also reports that 17 percent of all automobile crashes recorded in the year 2011 involved a distracted driver.2
- Finally, the CDC claims that nearly 7 out of 10 drivers in the U.S. aged 18 to 64 have texted while driving on at least one occasion during the last 30 days.3
What Texas Law Says
For years, Texas had no statewide law that forbade texting and driving, although there were a number of restrictions at the local level. That changed in 2017 when Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 62, the state’s first law to outlaw texting and driving. Effective September 1, 2017, Texas drivers can face fines if a law enforcement officer observes them using their texting device while operating a vehicle in motion.
The law mandates the following penalties for texting and driving:
- For a first offense, a fine of at least $25 and no more than $99.
- For later offenses, a fine of least $100 and no more than $200.
- For any offense where the driver causes another party’s injury or death, a fine of no more than $4000 and a jail sentence of no more than one year.
There are special circumstances where a driver can legally operate their texting device. For example, if the driver has a legitimate emergency situation or has a sound reason to believe that such a situation is developing, then he or she is permitted to send and view texts. Drivers can also legally use their devices to operate their global positioning system (GPS).
What to Do if You’re the Victim of a Texting and Driving Accident
If you’ve been involved in an accident caused by a distracted driver who was unlawfully texting, you should seek out qualified legal counsel. You can get it by contacting our law office. Our Houston texting and driving accident lawyers have handled a number of cases involving texting-related incidents.
At Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., we draw upon our years of legal experience to help our clients obtain an appropriate settlement. Please call our Houston, TX office at (713) 574-5089 for a free consultation from one of our distracted driving accident attorneys in Houston.