Distracted Driving in Texas – No room for multitasking
Distracted driving that results in an auto accident can have lasting effects on everyone involved. From a minor fender-bender to a catastrophic injury that results in loss of life or limb, the physical, emotional, and financial loss that result from a distracted driving accident can be devastating.
Previously, we discussed a recent cell phone ban specific to the North Texas community of Little Elm. Important to note is how easy it is to drive in and out of several communities throughout your daily commute to work, picking up kids from school, or shuttling them to various after school activities, and not know what laws you are actually breaking. If we widen our view to shift focus on the State of Texas, we can see what laws are in place for the entire state. For example, current laws in Texas related to distracted driving include:
- Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using wireless communication devices
- Learners permit holders are prohibited from using handheld cell phones in the first six months of driving
- School bus operators are prohibited from using cell phones while driving if children are present.
- Drivers are prohibited from using handheld devices in school crossing zones.
- Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Amarillo, Galveston, El Paso, Corpus Christi, Missouri City, the Canyon, San Angelo, Snyder, Stephenville are all among the several dozen cities in Texas that have enacted local distracted driving laws.
Regarding school zones, it is an interesting and important point to note the restrictions of the use of a wireless communication device on school property (note just the school zone on the street in front of or surrounding the school). A motor vehicle operator may not use a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle on the property of a public elementary, middle, junior high, or high school for which a local authority has designated a school crossing zone, during the time a reduced speed limit is in effect for the school crossing zone, unless:
- The vehicle is stopped; or
- The wireless communication device is used with a hands-free device.
In Austin, they take cell phone use while driving seriously. In addition to being the first city in Texas to adopt a citywide ban on texting while driving, the police department is utilizing buses, allowing police the ability to spot drivers who are breaking the law by using their cell phones while driving. This technique is allowing Austin police a better opportunity to enforce the law and hopefully provide a safer driving environment, at least for the folks traveling through their city. (http://foxsanantonio.com/news/local/police-using-buses-to-catch-drivers-on-their-phones). By taking assertive action, Austin police hope to decrease phone related crashes, which were up 24% between 2014-2015.
It is worth repeating that the use of a cell phone or other electronic device while driving should never take precedent over the safe handling of the vehicle you operate. There is no room for multitasking on our roads and highways and the purpose of these laws are to protect drivers, passengers, and pedestrians from unnecessary pain and suffering due to an avoidable auto accident.
For more information about cell phone restrictions in your area, check out the Texas Department of Transportation’s website at http://www.txdot.gov/driver/laws/cellphones.html. If you or someone you know has been in a car accident related to another individual’s distracted driving, call our office today for a free consultation.