For a long time, Texas lawmakers and law enforcement were ambivalent about how to handle a distracted driver, texting and driving and other behaviors related to this. With the number of accidents that occur because of a driver not paying attention to the road and the injuries and fatalities that accompany them, a decision was made to make it illegal to text and drive. A new law went into effect on September 1 giving officers the authority to stop drivers who are using their smartphones and fine them $99 for a first offense and $200 for a second offense.
The goal of this law is to reduce the number of people who are distracted by their phones when behind the wheel. The AAA of Texas believes that this will increase safety on the road. While texting in any way as a reader, writer or sender is illegal, other behaviors are not outlawed. That includes using the phone for directions, searching for music or making telephone calls. This means that when there is a car accident, there is still a significant chance that the driver was distracted even if that distraction did not come from texting and driving.
The number of crashes in which distracted driving is believed to have been a factor is substantial. The Texas Department of Public Safety says that in 2016, there were 3,000 people injured and 455 people killed because of distracted driving. This new law adds to other previously enacted laws that prohibited the use of cellphones behind the wheel when in a school zone. Drivers under 18-years-old cannot use their phones when on the road.
The acknowledgement on the part of lawmakers and law enforcement that distracted driving is a problem is a big step toward reducing it. However, other ways in which drivers can use their phones when driving and those who simply flout the law make it likely that there will still be car accidents because of distracted drivers. These accidents can cause severe injuries and death with massive medical costs, long-term hospitalizations and families not knowing how they will move forward with an injured loved one or without a loved one who has died. A lawyer can help with the crash reconstruction and pursuing compensation in a lawsuit after an accident.
Source: dallasobserver.com, “Starting Today, It’s Illegal to Text and Drive in Texas,” Stephen Young, Sept. 1, 2017