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Texting on a Texas Highway

NOTICE: THE LAWS IN TEXAS HAVE CHANGED! This post no longer covers current laws in Texas. Please see NEW TEXTING AND DRIVING LAW.

Everyone knows texting and driving is a bad idea. It has also been banned in most states. Texas is still the exception. There is not a statewide prohibition on driving and texting. In Texas, you can legally drive on a few tollways as fast as 85 miles per hour. The laws of the State of Texas do not prohibit a person from texting while driving. So it is not illegal to compose and send a text to your buddy while you are legally driving 85 miles per hour in Texas. As someone who drives on the highways of Texas, I would encourage you not to do this.

There are laws in Texas regarding driving and texting. Here are a few of the statewide laws regarding cellphones and driving.

  • It is illegal for a driver with a learner’s permit to use a handheld cellphone within the first six months of driving.

  • Drivers are prohibited from using a handheld device while in a school zone. This includes texting, holding it to look at Google maps, or holding the phone while you talk on the phone. Most officers will give you a citation if they see a phone or handheld device in your hand while you are driving in an active school zone.

  • It is also illegal for a school bus driver to use a cellphone if there are children on the bus.

  • Any driver under the age of 18 is prohibited from using a wireless communication device while driving. In other words, even if a 17-year old driver is using a Bluetooth, hands-free device, that would be a violation.

This does not mean that a person can drive anywhere in Texas without worrying if they are texting or holding their phone while driving. Over 100 cities in Texas now prohibit the use of a handheld device while driving. Cities from Amarillo to Brownsville have passed city ordinances regarding the use of handheld devices. Some of those cities prohibit texting while driving. Some cities prohibit using a handheld device while driving.

The City of Austin may have the most restrictive ordinance.

Austin prohibits the use of all electronic hand-held devices while operating a vehicle or bicycle. The City of Austin website indicates that all of the following devices are prohibited:

  • Mobile telephone

  • personal digital assistant

  • MP3 or other hand-held music player

  • electronic reading device

  • laptop computer

  • pager

  • broadband personal communication device

  • GPS or navigation system

  • electronic gaming device

  • portable computing device

Generally it is an exception or a defense to prosecution if the hand-held cell phone is permitted in the event of an emergency such as calling 9-1-1 or 3-1-1 to report a crime or an accident. Even in an emergency situation, it is best to pull over and come to a complete stop before using or operating any mobile or hand-held device.

While driving and using your cellphone is generally allowed in Texas, if you are involved in an accident at a time when you were driving while distracted, it is likely that you will be found liable for the accident.

If you find yourself in the need of a criminal defense attorney, contact my office. I serve Parker, Tarrant, and surround counties.

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