Texas Cellphone-Use & Texting-While-Driving Laws

Read about Texas’s distracted driving laws and the consequences of a violation.

Unlike many other states, Texas doesn’t restrict all cellphone and wireless device use while driving. Texas drivers are generally allowed to talk on a cellphone. But starting September 1, 2017, most electronic messaging using a cellphone or other wireless device will be prohibited.

This article gives an overview of what Texas’s distracted driving law covers and the penalties for a violation.

Electronic Messaging

Texas’s distracted driving laws prohibit drivers from using a portable wireless communication device to read, write, or send an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped. Texas law defines “wire communication device” as any device that uses a commercial mobile service. 

Penalties. Unlawful use of a wireless communication device is a misdemeanor. For a first violation, the fine ranges from $25 to $99. Motorist convicted of a second violation face $100 to $200 in fines. However, if an unlawful wireless device offense leads to the death or serious bodily injury of another person, it’s a class A misdemeanor and carries up to $4,000 in fines and maximum one year in jail. (Also, learn about Texas’s vehicular homicide and manslaughter laws.)

Exceptions. There are a number of exceptions to Texas’s distracted driving law. Generally, the law doesn’t apply when the wireless device was used:

  • with a hands-free device
  • to navigate using a GPS system
  • for emergency purposes
  • to activate a system that plays music, or
  • to relay information to a dispatcher or digital network or software application service in the course of the driver’s occupational duties and the device was permanently or temporarily affixed to the vehicle.

(Tex. Transp. Code Ann. §§ 545.425, 545.4251 (2017).)

Underage Drivers

Generally, drivers who are under the age of 18 (under 17 years old with a restricted moped or motorcycle license) are prohibited from using a wireless device for any purpose while driving. In other words, these underage drivers can’t text message or talk on the phone while at the wheel. Violators are guilty of a misdemeanor and face $25 to $99 in fines for a first violation and $100 to $200 in fines for a second conviction. (Read more about Texas’s teen driving laws.)

(Tex. Transp. Code Ann. § 545.424 (2017).)

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