Distracted driving has become one of the most well-known causes of preventable auto accidents in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving caused hundreds of thousands of injuries and killed nearly 3,200 victims in 2014 alone. In light of alarming statistics like these, and as a result of increased efforts to raise awareness and adopt new policy changes, states around the country have passed tougher laws designed to target distracted motorists and reduce the carnage they can cause on public roads and highways.
Texas, like other states, has passed laws to crack down on distracted driving, especially when it comes to the use of cell phones. Unfortunately, Texas still remains 1 of only 4 states in the country without a law that prohibits all drivers from texting behind the wheel. Here are the current distracted driving laws in the Lone Star State:
- Handheld and hands-free cell phone use is prohibited for bus drivers.
- Handheld and hands-free cell phone use is prohibited for novice drivers.
- Texting is prohibited for bus drivers.
- Texting is prohibited for novice drivers.
- Testing and handheld cell phone use is prohibited in school zones.
While there are distracted driving laws in place, they fall short of similar legislation in other states around the country, particularly when it comes to handheld cell phone use and text messaging, which are among the most dangerous forms of distracted driving because they command a driver’s manual, cognitive, and visual attention all at once. In addition, most drivers in Texas are allowed to use hands-free devices with their cell phones when driving – with the exception of school bus drivers who transport any minors 17 or under and novice drivers with 12 months of driving experience or less.
Because Texas state law falls short in protecting motorists and others from distracted drivers, several cities have taken it upon themselves to pass local ordinances that directly prohibit certain forms of distracted driving and cell phone use. The city of Austin, for example, refers to itself as a “Hands-Free City” because it has its own law prohibiting the handheld use of cell phones and other devices when driving or riding a bike. The law went into effect in January, and allows motorists to use hands-free systems such as Bluetooth or headphones. Drivers who violate the ordinance can be fined $500 for a first offense.
The fact that Texas is 1 of only 4 states without a statewide ban on texting, or other cell phone use, says a great deal about the seriousness of distracted driving laws, as well as the dangers of using a cell phone behind the wheel. While some motorists may claim that hands-free devices are safer, it is still important to understand that hands-free does not mean risk-free. These devices can still distract motorists from the primary task of driving, which can increase the risk of crashing. This is why some states prohibit not only handheld cell phone use for all drivers, but also the use of hands-free devices for certain motorists.
When it comes to auto accidents, personal injury law, and the rights of injured victims, it should be noted that just because there are no laws against the use of handheld or hands-free devices for most drivers in Texas, does not mean that distracted drivers cannot be held liable for causing harm to others. If a motorist is behind the wheel and distracted in any way to the point where they fail to uphold their legal duty of driving safely, they are being negligent and can therefore be held responsible for any damages injured victims suffer as a result of their actions. These can include the costs of medical treatment, lost work wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.
At the Law Offices of Vic Feazell, P.C., our Austin car accident attorneys are passionate about protecting the rights of victims who are injured through no fault of their own. If you or someone you love has been hurt in a car wreck you believe was caused by a negligent driver who may have been distracted at the time, do not hesitate to bring your case to the attention of our award-winning legal team. Our lawyers can review your case, discuss if you have the right to pursue financial compensation, and explain what we can do to help.
Contact us today for a no-cost consultation.