New state law to crack down on texting and driving


Parker Nolan

The punishment for a first-time violator for the new state law is a fine of $25 to $99.

Austin Keefer, Staff Writer

Starting Friday, Sept. 1, texting and driving will be illegal in the state of Texas.

The new law, House Bill 62, was passed by the Texas Legislature and signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott on June 6 as part of a statewide crackdown on the deadly practice, which, along with other methods of distracted driving, caused 109,658 crashes statewide last year alone. Over 3,000 people were injured, and 455 died.

“The new texting and driving law (House Bill 62) edits a few statutes in the Texas Transportation Code,” Fairview police officer Boston Ross said in an email interview. “Transportation Code 545.424 prohibits anyone under 18 from using a wireless communication device (i.e. cell phone) while operating a motor vehicle and prohibits anyone under 17 from using a cell phone while operating a moped or motorcycle. Transportation Code 545.4251 makes it an offense for an individual to read, write, or send an electronic message (text, email, etc.) while operating a motor vehicle, unless the vehicle is stopped.”

Ross also noted that the law prohibits all cell phone use, except for emergency, for people under that age of 18 while “operating” a motor vehicle – while driving or stopped.

“However, for those over 18, the only thing prohibited is texting, and texting while stopped is not a violation,” Ross added.

The punishment for a first-time violator for code 545.424  is a fine of $25 to $99, but increases $100-$200 for second and subsequent offenses. The punishment for violating code 545.4251 is the same, but also includes an additional punishment level if the unlawful cell phone usage causes the death or serious bodily injury of another person. This would be a Class A misdemeanor and could result in a fine of up to $4,000 and up to a year in jail.

Senior Andrew Grissom recalled his experience riding in a car with a driver who was texting.

“He wasn’t driving erratically or anything, but of course there’s always the possibility of something happening and him not being able to react to it properly,” Grissom said.

Library tech assistant Janet Tillman has seen the real dangers of distracted driving.

“[In my family] we don’t text and drive,” Tillman said. “In fact, we don’t answer our phones if we’re driving, or we’ll answer and say, ‘I’ll call you back’. I have known a young person who was killed because they were texting and they were driving, and the last text was to one of their friends.”

Despite repeated messages of the dangers of texting and driving, the lull of phone chimes still calls to many students when they’re behind the wheel.

“Of course [I’ve been tempted],” junior Max Fischer said. “I’m human, just like all the other teenagers out here.”

Fischer has also been a passenger in a vehicle while the driver checked their phone.

“I felt a little discouraged in their choice,” Fischer said. “It made me feel like they didn’t care much about my own well-being.”

Grissom said the new law “will probably keep people off their phones,” but senior  Ashlyn May was reserving judgment.

“I think it’s smart, but I’d be interested to see how much it would be enforced,” May said.

Tillman added that she was sad to see that the new rules were needed.

“I think it’s shameful that we have to have a law,” Tillman said.  “People ought to have enough sense to not text and drive.”