The Marlin Democrat
The crash data includes only crashes where cell phone use specifically was cited as a factor. It does not show crashes were other forms of distraction were reported as a factor.
Hands Free Law in effect as of Sept. 1
It is the latest effort by the Texas State Legislature to reduce the alarming amount of collisions on Texas roadways.
While many metro and mini-metro based cities like Bryan / College Station have enacted city wide bans on cell phone use while driving, the Texas Legislature took a broader approach in the new law which took effect on September 1.
No driving while texting, reading, writing or sending from an electronic device. First offense is a fine from $25 - $99 (court cost) and a repeat offender is $100 - $200 (court cost).
If driver causes death or serious bodily injury in a crash they could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor (up to one year in jail) and a fine not to exceed $4000.
Texas still has no cell phone or electronic device in school zones and new young drivers have restriction of usage with cell phones and electronic devices.
It’s important to note that this new law only addresses reading, writing, or sending electronic messages‚ via a wireless communication device. It is still legal for motorists in most cities to use their phone for GPS navigation, music apps, browsing the internet, dialing phone numbers, etc., but drivers may still get pulled over if an officer suspects them of texting.
This new law is commonly referred to as a Visual Moving Violation, which means if an officer sees you using your cell phone while driving he can pull you over. It is unclear as to how that officer will determine if you are actually texting and deriving.
In 2016, there were 109,658 traffic crashes in Texas alone that involved distracted driving, leading to over 3,000 serious injuries and at least 455 fatalities. The sobering truth is that texting while driving makes a car accident 23 times more likely to occur.
In Robertson County during 2016, 7 fatal accidents occurred. Six of those crashes were on US Hwy. 6 with cell phones as a contributing factor according the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Cell phone use while driving is incredibly dangerous, and as such, at least 45 Texas cities have gone above and beyond by enacting more-strict hands-free ordinances within their jurisdictions.
Following the passage of this new law, Gov. Abbott had asked lawmakers to meet in a special session in order to enact broader legislation which would roll back any city ordinances that ban mobile phone use beyond texting while driving. Ultimately, no vote was cast before the special session concluded.