As of the beginning of the month, there’s a new law in Texas. While texting and driving has been illegal in various forms in several cities for some time, now pretty much any use of a handheld device can land you a fine. Texting, using social media and surfing the web behind the wheel have now been criminalized. Using GPS or music apps is still perfectly okay. You just can’t send, read or write electronic messages.
Penalties Under the New Law
The fine is low, up to $200, but the costs of distracted driving can turn out to be far, far more. Distracted driving, especially due to smartphones, is one of the deadliest driving behaviors. In 2015 alone, 3,477 deaths were attributed to distracted driving. Another 391,000 suffered injury. The NHTSA says that during daylight hours, as many as 660,000 people are using cell phones while driving. Teens are the largest group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes.
Texting and driving is one of the most alarming forms of distracted driving. This is because it encompasses all three categories of distraction (manual, visual and cognitive). The texting driver has his or her hands, eyes and mind off the task of driving. In the average amount of time a driver looks at a phone, five seconds, that driver can travel the length of a football field. Anyone or anything in that driver’s path is in danger.
You shouldn’t need a law to know that distracted driving is dangerous. But hopefully, now that there is a statewide ban, we will see less deaths from drivers distracted by electronic devices.