Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate drivers about...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Licensed Agent for 10 Years

UPDATED: Aug 27, 2019

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Texas, like many other states, has been examining its laws relating to distracted driving. With the advent of cell phones which not only text but offer internet surfing and other features, more and more drivers are practicing unsafe habits by texting, talking, and playing with phones while driving.

In keeping with the changing technology, laws are being developed to keep people’s minds on their driving and their hands off their phones.

However, Texas has not been on the forefront in passing sweeping cell phone regulatory laws, or in enforcing existing laws uniformly.

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Cell Phone Laws in Texas

Texas currently has several rules about cell phones and driving. First, drivers under 18 are completely prohibited from using any type of wireless communication device while driving.

Drivers over 18 on a learner’s permit are also prohibited from using cellular devices during the first six months of driving. Drivers who violate these rules stand to lose their driving privileges, sometimes for six months but possibly for longer, depending on the circumstances.

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Further, school bus drivers are prohibited from using their cell phones in any manner if children are present on the bus they are driving, and drivers are prohibited from using cell phones in a school crossing zone.

These laws are considered “primary laws,” which means that an officer can pull a driver over only for that offense, without having another cause.

Primary laws give law enforcement officials more power and flexibility to enforce cell phone regulations and laws, without requiring them to significantly change their own practices in pulling over drivers.

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Distracted Driving Laws for Adults

However, while these distracted driving laws are a good step in the right direction, laws targeting adult use of cell phones have been slower in appearing.

Recent legislation has been proposed which would make it illegal for any driver to text while driving, but the measure, although passed by both the Texas House and Senate, was defeated by the current governor, who called it, “a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults.”

The governor’s antipathy to the law passed by the Texas legislature, and his refusal to sign it, may have sprung from the fact that it was viewed by many as an end-run attempt to pass legislation which did not have initial support in the House and Senate.

The bill, which began life as House Bill 242, was actually passed as an addendum to an unrelated bill—a legislative maneuver guaranteed to draw political lines in the sand on both sides of the legislative aisles.

Unfortunately, the political infighting killed the bill, which would have provided a much larger degree of protection for Texas drivers by creating a primary law dealing with texting in particular. Currently, there are no laws in Texas which prohibit texting or surfing the internet by adults.

Ironically, recent studies have suggested that adults may more often violate safety rules by texting while driving than teens.

However, the legislature is not through considering distracted driving laws. No less than eleven separate bills came before the House and Senate in 2011 which were designed to curtail cell phone usage in some form.

While these bills were battled out on the House and Senate floors, more and more attention was being paid to the problem of distracted driving in general.

Several cities, including Arlington, Amarillo, El Paso, McAllen, and San Antonio enacted their own local bans on texting while driving. Since April 1 of 2010, El Paso issued over 6,000 distracted driving tickets, with fines ranging from $114 to $500 each.

Clearly, the focus of the state is being directed more and more on distracted driving and the problems it causes, even if the state legislature is not prepared to deal with the problem at this time.

How dangerous is Distracted Driving?

This is attention which is hardly misplaced. Every year, at least 6,000 car-related deaths are directly related to cell phone use while driving.

While overall car crash fatalities numbers are declining, this may be due to safer vehicles and more people taking personal responsibility for avoiding dangerous behaviors, such as talking and texting while driving.

Texas has no limitations on hands-free cell phone usage, except the restrictions listed for teen drivers and school bus drivers. Recent research has mixed results, with some studies indicating that hands-free talking is far less dangerous than hand-held phone use, while other studies show no significant difference in the distraction level of each task.

In the interim, until stricter cell phone laws are passed, it is possible that using hands-free devices may help keep drivers from engaging in some dangerous behaviors while behind the wheel.

Of course, if you live in Texas or driving through its important to check with current Texas state laws before operating a phone while driving.

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Related posts:

  1. Illinois Distracted Driving Laws
  2. California Distracted Driving Laws