No texting while driving soon to be the law in Texas

The law is loosely referred to as the no texting law but, actually, HB 62 is about distracted driving and trying to change behavior of individuals behind the wheel. Distracted drivers caused more than 100,000 crashes statewide in 2015 resulting in 422 fatalities, the Texas Department of Transportation reported.

Sponsored by Representative Tom Craddock, the Distracted Driving bill was signed into law June 6 by Governor Greg Abbott and goes into effect September 1. Fines will be $25 to $200. 

The Texas distracted driving prohibitions: Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using wireless communications devices; Learners permit holders are prohibited from using handheld cell phones in the first six months of driving; School bus operators are prohibited from using cell phones while driving if children are present; Drivers are prohibited from using handheld devices in school crossing zones; Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Amarillo, Galveston, El Paso, Corpus Christi, Missouri City, the Canyon, San Angelo, Snyder, Hurst, Lakeway, Stephenville and Wichita Falls are among the more than 60 Texas cities that have enacted local distracted driving laws.

Little Elm adopted a hands-free law in early January. Prohibited activities while driving in the Dallas-Fort Worth-area city include using a handheld device to talk, text and take photos. Fines begin at $100 and go up to $500. A warning period ran through the end of February.

“We are reviewing it [HB 62] now as we are not yet sure how it will change policing and traffic enforcement in Prosper until it takes effect,” said Assistant Police Chief Gary McHone in an email. “But it’s safe to say that we’re definitely in favor of any tools that can help make our streets and Town safer. Also, Prosper PD personnel will receive training on all of the laws passed this legislative session, including HB 62.”

McHone says once they get to see the final version of the law, they will determine the best way to conduct local enforcement. The law will have to be codified into the Transportation Code and “when we see a violation and when we can take action, we will,” McHone said. “Changing unsafe behavior is our goal; this does not always require issuing a citation. If there are educational opportunities, then we will explore those as well, which would have the same impact of stopping unsafe behavior.

“There are several prongs to Traffic Safety,” Said Police Chief Doug Kowalski. He referred to the five ‘E’s: Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement and Evaluation.

With engineering in the case of HB 62, there have already been several electronic enhancements to operate functions of a smart phone by hands-free voice commands. There are also Apps that can sense when a phone is in a moving vehicle, and render it inoperable while automatically responding with a pre-programmed text message reply. 

“There will be an education campaign to advise drivers of the specifics of the new law and when it goes into effect,” Kowalski said. Also, “during an initial period, offenders will be stopped, advised and warned or encouraged to follow the law.”  These first three phases are to gain voluntary compliance with the law. 

“Following the other phases or flagrant violations, offenders will be stopped and issued a citation in an effort to gain compliance,” Kowalski added.

There will also be an evaluation period after which it will be determined if the new law helps to cut down on traffic accidents.

Anyone interested in more information about this or any other law can read the Texas statutes on line at http://bit.ly/2sLMPGd.

 

Joyce Godwin | Joyce@CedarbrookMedia.Com

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