Using a cell phone while driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving in Houston and across Texas. Starting September 1st, a statewide ban on driving and cell phone use begins. Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill into law in June, yet says he’s not satisfied with it. His reason is puzzling.
Wanted to void stricter local ordinances
State Representative Tom Craddick and Senator Judith Zafferini have partnered unsuccessfully for a state wide driving and cell phone use ban for several legislative sessions, but finally reached their goal this year. The law forbids writing or sending electronic messages such as texts, social media posts and email. Ken Herman of the Austin American Statesman reports that Governor Abbott signed the bill, but at the same time, criticized it for not lifting stricter local laws.
Statewide ban more lenient than local laws
Texas becomes the forty-seventh state to pass a statewide ban. But the new law is actually less rigorous than the local laws in some of the 90+ cities with their own restrictions. Those stricter laws are what bothers the Governor.
“We’ve got to pre-empt all local ordinances that regulate mobile devices in vehicles,” said Abbott. “We don’t need a patchwork quilt of regulations that dictate driving practices around Texas.”
The law provides for a $25 to $99 fine for the first offense and $100 to $200 for repeat offenses. Police may not arrest a driver texting while driving, but if the driver causes an accident resulting in serious bodily harm or death, they face a $4,000 fine and a year in jail.
Whereas the state law focuses on banning typed out messages and pictures, many municipalities go further, banning talking, streaming music and most other functions on cell phones while driving. So the irony is that after years of pursuit by advocates, a statewide ban exists, but it is actually more lenient than many local ordinances.
Some cities tightening even more
Some cities are tightening distracted driving laws even more. Austin Culture Map reports that the capital city’s Public Safety Commission is considering amendments to the existing law to prohibit even passengers in a vehicle from taking pictures or videos, to prevent distracting drivers. It is already illegal for drivers to do so. The amendments would also make it illegal to use a phone even when stopped at a light or stop sign, and would prohibit the use of headphones that cover the ears. Ear buds would still be allowed.
The most common texting while driving accident
This video shows the most common type of cell phone distraction driving accident. A driver on his phone rear ends the car in front of him.
Houston’s distracted driving accident attorneys
Representative Craddick and Senator Zafferini showed remarkable persistence pursuing bipartisan support for protecting Texas drivers and, thankfully, left stricter local ordinances in place.
At The Callahan Law Firm we represent individuals and families harmed by distracted or “inattentive” drivers. Our Houston texting and driving accident lawyers have the knowledge and experience to successfully represent people in these type cases. We work on a contingency basis, meaning we only get paid for our services if you make a recovery whether through settlement or jury verdict.