According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,447 automobile deaths in 2015 were attributed to texting while driving. But the dangers of texting while driving are even more startling when you consider another 391,000 drivers and passengers were injured in accidents involving a distracted driver. It’s estimated that 660,000 drivers use their cell phones while driving in daylight hours. With so many people using their phones on the road, there are huge potentials for death and injury on US roads. Stats also show that teen drivers are by large the worst texting and driving offenders in fatality related accidents. Despite these stark facts, there are still four states in the US that don’t have a statewide ban on the deadly distraction including Texas. But safety advocates have finally won over Texas lawmakers and helped secure a ban on texting while driving for the entire state.
For almost a decade, Texas safety advocates have called for a ban on texting while driving. A small victory in 2011 was cut short when the then Governor Rick Perry quickly vetoed legislation that would have banned the dangerous behavior. Taking note of safety official concerns and a recent tragedy that involved texting while driving and the loss of 13 lives, Governor Greg Abbott signed legislation that officially bans the act of texting and driving.
Many states already have bans on texting while driving, but it’s significant in Texas because the Lone Star state is one of the last in the US to adopt laws officially banning the action. After Texas, the only states that don’t ban texting and driving include Missouri, Arizona, and Montana.
Cities in Texas Already had Bans
Before the legislation went into effect, many Texas cities already had a ban on texting and driving. The state law makes it illegal to engage in this behavior anywhere in its borders. According to the new legislation, all texting is banned; including the use of a hand-held phone to read or send a message electronically. However, the use of other features such as music and navigation programs are stilled allowed.
Texas Special Session will Sync Local Ordinances and State Law
One of the biggest hesitations to a statewide ban on texting and driving was enforcement. To address this, Governor Abbott has requested a rollback on any local Texas ordinance that prohibits the use of a mobile device beyond texting and driving. The Governor stated this request would be made during the upcoming July and August special sessions. According to Texas lawmakers, the rollback is needed to make it easier to enforce the law.
Ban on Texting Goes into Effect in September 2017
The ban on texting while driving in Texas will go into effect September 1, 2017. Under this legislation, a fine of $99 can be imposed on first-time offenders. The fine increases to $200 for repeat offenders. While most lawmakers are pleased with the decision – others are worried it gives police the power to pull people over if something is mistaken as a mobile device. Additionally, lawmakers fear that it will be difficult to enforce these laws. While Texas lawmakers have a few wrinkles to iron before the ban is official, it’s obvious that the intent is to make the roads safer for all.