How is distracted driving handled in Texas?

While Texas does not have a statewide law regarding distracted driving, the city of San Antonio does have a ban on handheld use of wireless devices.

In the last several years, distracted driving has emerged as a much-discussed topic around the nation. Most states have enacted laws governing the use of cellphones or other devices while driving. Texas has taken a different approach to this issue, and all residents should take note.

No statewide ban on all phone use when driving

The Texas Department of Transportation explains that the state has yet to put into effect any statewide law that bans the use of cellphones when behind the wheel of a vehicle. However, there are some stipulations in place that impact drivers in all areas of the state including the following:

• School bus drivers may not use cellphones when kids are present.

• Licensed drivers under 18 years of age or permitted drivers may not use cellphones at any time.

• All drivers are banned from the handheld use of a phone, including to text, when in a school zone.

In the absence of any other statewide laws, local municipalities have taken it upon themselves to institute their own distracted driving laws.

San Antonio's approach to distracted driving

In November 2014, the city of San Antonio signed into law a ban on the handheld use of wireless devices by drivers. This law took effect at the beginning of 2015. Any violation of the law can result in a $200 fine. The law does allow people to use their phones in hands-free mode for communications and navigational purposes.

Different types of driving distractions

Distraction.gov states that there are three types of distractions that drivers face. Manual distraction occurs when drivers engage in an activity that leads them to take their hands off the wheel, such as turning the dial of a stereo to change the station or eating. Visual distraction is looking at something other than the road and driving environment. This can include reading a billboard, looking at a map, turning to check on kids in the back seat or looking for something that dropped.

The third type is cognitive distraction. This can happen when people are thinking about something else while they are behind the wheel. Many drivers can relate stories where they missed their exit because their mind was on an upcoming meeting or reliving a great moment from the night before. Cognitive distraction can take place when using speech-to-text technology because drivers are thinking more about the task they are engaging in than what is going on around them.

An ongoing problem in Texas

In 2014, distracted driving was linked to more than 100,000 accidents within the state, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Out of this number, 468 people died and there were over 3,000 serious injuries reported. While there are no laws that prohibit people from using their cellphone in Texas, the agency is actively encouraging people to voluntarily put their devices down when they drive.

The issues surrounding distracted driving are unlikely to go away overnight. Victims will continue to be injured or even lose their lives unnecessarily. Seeking compensation can be difficult when dealing with insurance companies is required. Contacting an attorney is recommended to obtain assistance when pursuing legal remedies following a crash.