Texas driving laws will be getting a new addition in a matter of months, as a recently approved statewide rule will go into place that bans motorists from texting and driving on their handheld devices.
Late last month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott attached his signature to Bill 62, making the Lone Star State the 47th state in the country to prohibit motorists from sending or fielding text messages when they’re behind the wheel. The move has been a long time coming as lawmakers had debated on whether to make the distracted driving behavior illegal for over five years. Dozens of cities had adopted various distracted driving laws since 2009, but there hadn’t been one at the statewide level until Abbott made the restriction official with the stroke of a pen.
Tom Craddick, state representative from Midland and chief sponsor of Bill 62, said the government is making a smart decision that may result in fewer needless deaths and Texas auto insurance claims.
“90 cities already have laws that pertain to drivers using cellphones.”
“By enacting this public safety legislation, the governor is saving lives by deterring this dangerous and deadly behavior,” Craddick said in a statement, according to several news organizations. “For a long time, Texas has needed this law to prevent the loss of life in unnecessary and preventable crashes and we finally have it.”
Even though more than 90 cities have laws on the books restricting cellphone use behind the wheel, distracted driving is often responsible for the many accidents that take place. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, an estimated 20% of crashes in the Lone Star State stem from multitasking. In 2016, more than 108,950 collisions were attributable to distractions.
$99 fine for first-time offense
Should motorists be caught in texting mode, the penalty could be stiff. A first offense is punishable by up to $99, with subsequent violations costing violators $200 per instance, multiple news organizations reported.
At the same time, though, the statewide texting-while-driving ban is more lenient than those in other parts of the country. For instance, Washington State recently passed an amendment to its distracted driving law so that it includes using portable music players or surfing the internet. In Texas, navigation-related mobile device activities remain permissible, KDFW reported.
Because the distracted driving law isn’t an outright ban, area officials believe that the restriction will be difficult to legislate.
“It’s going to be a little challenging,” said J.J. Craig, chief of police for the City of Victoria, according to the Victoria Advocate. “But at the same time, I’m hopeful the law as it’s written now will assist us in educating the public through voluntary compliance.”
Nearly 3,500 highway deaths due to distraction
Driver distraction has reached epidemic proportions on the nation’s roads. According to the most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,477 people were killed in accidents related to multitasking in 2015. Additionally, approximately 391,000 individuals were injured due to the dangers of texting and driving.
While the risks of distracted driving are well understood and recognized by most motorists, there’s some question about the degree to which auto insurance premiums are affected for those convicted of the infraction. Laura Adams, a representative for InsuranceQuotes, told the Advocate that no universal rule is in place and a fine in Texas may not have any impact.
“If you get a texting ticket, there really [aren’t] any ramifications on your record,” Adams explained. “It’s not likely to influence your insurance rate.”
“Not likely” is the operative phrase, because in some circumstances, distracted driving can substantially impact auto insurance rates, making Texas low cost insurance much more difficult to come by. To keep your rates affordable and the roads safe, Elephant Auto Insurance urges motorists statewide to adhere to the texting while driving ban, which officially takes effect as of Sept. 1.
This article is intended for informational purposes only. It does not replace or modify the information contained in your insurance policy.