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