In September, the new texting while driving law took effect in Texas, banning the use of a wireless communications device for electronic messaging while operating a motor vehicle. This includes texting and reading or writing email.
Because the law defines prohibited use as “electronic messaging,” other means of distraction such as Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Twitter and other social media applications appear to be covered under restricted activity.
Not all distractions covered under law
While the law sounds great on the surface, there is concern the law will not fully protect motorists from distracted drivers. A report from when the law first went into effect highlighted that the use of cell phones for making and receiving phone calls is still permitted, as long as local ordinance does not prohibit it. There is no ordinance in Plano that restricts driver phone calls in motor vehicles.
Another potential distraction not covered in the law is the use of navigation and music applications, internet browsers, search functions, gaming apps or other phone apps not used for the purpose of “messaging.”
The law allows an exemption for texting in emergency situations, but there is no clear definition of what would qualify as an emergency. Hands-free texting is also exempt.
While this law certainly makes strides to keeping Texans safe on the road, it doesn’t fully cover all types of distracted driving. There are still instances where another motorist on their phone could cause an accident that leads to serious injury.
The best thing you can do is stay off your phone and keep your eyes on the road, and hope the new law incentivizes other drivers to do the same.