Texting is one of the most dangerous driver habits. Texting takes a driver’s eyes off the road and mind off the driving task. It can also take one or both hands off the steering wheel. Someone who is texting while driving cannot dedicate 100% of his or her attention to the road. This can lead to devastating auto accidents.
In 2017, around 3,170 people in the U.S. lost their lives because of distracted drivers. In the last six years, 10% of all fatal car accidents involved at least one distracted driver. Texting and driving is a deadly trend that has contributed to hundreds of fatal accidents. Almost two years ago, Texas enacted a law prohibiting texting while driving to help reduce the number of distracted drivers on the road.
No Accident, No Jail Time
Texas’ texting while driving law places a universal ban on using a handheld electronic device to send, read or write electronic messages behind the wheel. The law covers texting as well as emails, instant messages, Facebook chats and other forms of text communication. In an interview regarding the new law, the executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, James Bass, said that distracted driving causes 20% of car accidents in the state. He also said he hopes the law will reduce collisions and save lives.
According to an existing law, drivers under the age of 18 cannot use cellphones in any way while driving, including making phone calls or texting on hands-free devices. The penalty for violating Texas’ texting and driving law is a ticket and a fine. Drivers will pay $99 for a first offense and $200 for each subsequent offense. Some cities in Texas have passed their own ordinances banning cellphone use or imposing higher fines on offenders.
A police officer can conduct a traffic stop and charge a driver for texting and driving with primary enforcement in Texas, meaning the police officer does not need another reason to stop the driver – reasonable suspicion of texting while driving is enough. A driver will not go to jail for texting and driving in Texas if the driver did not cause a car accident, injuries or deaths. However, texting while driving could lead to jail time if an accident occurs.
When Could a Driver Go to Jail for Texting While Driving?
Texas lawmakers take distracted driving accidents seriously. Causing an accident because of any form of distracted driving – including texting or another type of electronic messaging – could lead to expensive fines and/or jail time. The penalty for causing serious injury or death while texting and driving is up to $4,000 in fines against the driver. A courtroom in Texas could also sentence the at-fault driver to up to one year in county jail.
A driver could spend up to 365 days behind bars for texting while driving in Texas. A year in jail could change a person’s life. It could lead to the loss of a job and fractured relationships with friends and family members. The driver could also have a permanent criminal record for negligently or recklessly causing a serious injury or death. A criminal record could make it harder to find a job and housing. If the driver had a job operating a motor vehicle, such as a commercial driver, he or she may lose the job and/or driver’s license.
No driver should text, email or otherwise use a handheld cellphone while operating a motor vehicle. The risks are too great to be worth any message the driver may be sending. The only exceptions to Texas’ cellphone laws are during emergencies. Hands-free devices and technologies exist to help drivers avoid texting while driving. Drivers can download apps or use in-device features such as Do Not Disturb While Driving to control the urge to text. A few preventive measures could save a life.