Cell phones are one of the leading causes of car accidents in Texas. In 2021, approximately one in every five accidents in the Lonestar State was caused by someone using their cell phone while driving, resulting in 431 deaths and nearly 3,000 injuries. It’s clear that using your phone while driving is an extreme risk, but what other uses are prohibited under the Texas Hands-Free Law, and can you talk on the phone while driving? We’ll provide answers to this and more so you can protect yourself and others on the road.
Cell Phone Laws While Driving in Texas
In 2017, Texas enacted its Hands-Free Law, which makes it illegal to use your hands to operate your phone for any reason while driving. You are limited to hands-free functions when playing music, talking on the phone, and using your navigation system.
This usually means utilizing the Bluetooth system in your car, if it has that capability, to use voice commands to make calls, use the GPS, change songs, and more. The only exception to this law is in an emergency situation when contacting law enforcement, although it would be better to pull over before making the call.
Here are some additional restrictions to be aware of in Texas:
- New drivers, those with learner’s permits, and those under 18 may not use a cell phone while driving, as it is unsafe for a student driver to have any distractions while learning the rules of the road.
- No drivers may use a handheld cell phone while operating a vehicle on school property or in school zones when the speed limit is reduced for pedestrian students.
- School bus drivers may not use their cell phones in any way while in the presence of students.
So, Is It Illegal to Text and Drive?
Yes, it has been illegal in Texas since 2017, and it’s illegal practically everywhere else in the United States as well, except for Missouri and Montana. This offense is a misdemeanor in Texas and carries a fine of between $25 and $99, although repeat offenders are fined more. It’s not hard to understand why — reading a text removes your attention from the road for at least five seconds, which, at 55 MPH, is equivalent to driving the length of a football field blindfolded!
Can You Talk on the Phone While Driving in Texas?
You may not talk on the phone in Texas if you are holding the phone in your hand. Technically, you can talk on the phone hands-free in Texas if you use voice command functionality to dial, answer, speak, and hang up — but keep your mental focus on the road as much as possible. Try to avoid having difficult, emotional, or angry phone conversations that could alter your state of mind and lead to erratic driving behavior. If you have to have such a conversation, pull over to the side of the road or wait until you arrive at your destination.
Can You Text at a Red Light in Texas?
Some people think that because their vehicle is not in motion at a red light, they can text in their car. On the contrary, texting is still illegal at a red light because you are still considered to be operating your vehicle. Those caught texting at a red light in Texas will be subject to the same fines as those texting and driving.
What Is Distracted Driving?
The blanket definition of distracted driving is doing anything that takes your hands off the steering wheel or your eyes — or just your mind — off the road for even a moment. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye, so it’s vital to be aware of your surroundings at all times.
While the law does not dictate every single activity you may and may not do in your car, drivers do dozens of dangerous things regularly that they may not think of as distracted driving. For example, dropping your chapstick and bending over to pick it up constitutes distracted driving. Even talking to your passengers and eating snacks is a distraction. You can’t always avoid these activities, but do your best to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road to minimize the dangers.
Dangers of Distracted Driving
Driving distracted increases the risk of a crash as it slows down reaction times, impairs judgment, and reduces a driver’s awareness of their surroundings. Distracted driving is especially dangerous because it can happen in an instant. No matter how good you think you are at multitasking, it only takes a split second for a crash to occur.
In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving is a factor in nearly 25% of all car accidents and is responsible for thousands of fatalities every year. Drivers need to stay focused on the road and avoid all distractions while behind the wheel to ensure their safety and the safety of others.
Liability and Texting While Driving in Texas
When you’re on the road, you have a duty of care to respect the health and safety of other drivers by behaving safely and obeying traffic laws. Using a cell phone while driving violates that duty of care. Whoever causes a car accident due to driving distracted will likely be liable for the injuries or damages to another party they caused in their negligence.
On the other hand, if you’ve suffered injury or other damages because of a distracted driver, a personal injury lawyer can help you pursue compensation. The attorney will obtain police reports, speak to any witnesses to the accident, review phone records, collect photo evidence, and do whatever else it takes to determine the other party’s liability for your injuries.
Whoever is at fault for damages may be responsible for covering vehicle repairs, medical expenses, lost wages, and ability to work. Those who incur extreme injuries may also be able to pursue non-economic damages like pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
Common Reasons People Ignore Cell Phone Laws Behind the Wheel
Despite laws that ban the use of cell phones while driving in Texas, many drivers still think you can talk on the phone while driving or simply choose to ignore the rule. Common reasons people choose to disobey the cell phone ban can be attributed to a combination of factors, including a lack of awareness about the dangers of using cell phones while behind the wheel and an unwillingness to change existing behavior. Additionally, numerous studies have shown that some drivers are unconcerned about legal repercussions due to their choice not to abide by these rules.
You Deserve Expert Legal Representation After an Accident
If you’ve been injured after an accident because a driver was using their cell phone while driving, seek the help of a personal injury lawyer to help you get the compensation you deserve.
The professional personal injury lawyers at Lee, Gober & Reyna are knowledgeable and experienced with all the laws around distracted driving and Texas cell phone laws; they can ensure your legal rights to recover losses are not neglected and assist with filing lawsuits against the person who caused the distracted driving accident. Our dedicated attorneys see that all settlements are fair and accurately reflect the financial damages suffered from the accident.
Contact our office for a free consultation to find out whether you have a case and how we can help you get back on your feet as quickly as possible.