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A General Overview of the New Law Banning Texting and Driving in Texas
By: Chris Stoy

In September of 2017, Texas became the 48th state to ban texting while driving.  The ban was enacted in response to the devastating impacts people in Texas have suffered as a result of distracted driving.

For example, in 2016, Texas saw approximately 500 deaths and over 3,000 injuries from auto, truck, and other motor vehicle crashes caused by distracted drivers who were texting and driving. Congress, police, and other safety authorities are hoping the ban will curb texting and driving, which will in turn prevent accidents and save lives.

Below is a discussion on the new Texas law that bans texting while driving and how it can affect you. 

In general, texting while driving is banned.  However, like every law, there are technicalities.   The technicalities with this new law begin with one’s age.  The law states that all drivers are prohibited from using cellphones or other wireless communication devices to “read, write or send an electronic message … while the vehicle is moving.”  However, drivers 18 years of age or older are permitted to read, write, or send electronic messages from a handheld devices while the vehicle is stopped. 

Moreover, any licensed driver is permitted to use a wireless communication device or cellphone if the driver reasonably believes there is an emergency.  The “reasonable belief” exception could open the door to all kinds of issues for courts.  For example, what constitutes an emergency; or, can the emergency be your emergency?

With this new law in effect, some people ask if they can still use their phones while in their car.  The answer is yes.  Drivers are permitted to complete many actions with their cellphone while their vehicle is moving so long as it does not involve reading, writing, and/or sending messages.

Thus, a driver may still use his or her cellular phone to, among other things: make phone calls, use GPS, or play or change music.  However, using your phone as permitted by law does not guarantee that an officer will leave you be if he sees you using your device. 

If a police officer sees you using your phone and suspects you are using it in violation of the law, the officer can pull you over.  But, police officers are not automatically permitted to seize your phone or make you show it to them to prove you were texting.  And, if issued a ticket, you have the right to appear in court with your phone and/or phone records to prove you were not using your phone in violation of the law. 

Penalties for texting and driving vary according to the driver’s record. A first-time offense is a misdemeanor carrying a $25 to $99 fine.  Subsequent offenses are also considered misdemeanors, but are punishable by fines of $100 to $200.  And, if a texting-and-driving accident results in injury or death, a driver can be charged with a class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 and one year in jail. 

Chris Stoy is a partner at Hutchison & Stoy, PLLC and can be reached at


Views and opinions expressed in eNews are those of their authors and not necessarily those of the Texas Young Lawyers Association or the State Bar of Texas.

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