In today’s interconnected world, smartphones have become integral to motorists’ daily lives. Every day, drivers across Texas use their phones to get directions, listen to music, and even make phone calls or send messages while driving. However, despite their convenience, using them while driving can be dangerous and lead to car accidents.
Many states have adopted strict hands-free laws to discourage cell phone use and reduce distracted driving risk. If you rely on your phone daily, you should know how these laws may affect your commute.
Implementation of Hands-Free Laws
In 2017, Texas lawmakers officially banned the use of handheld devices while driving. Under these laws, drivers cannot make phone calls, send or receive text messages, navigate the web, or use similar handheld devices while driving.
As such, the only way to legally operate these devices is through hands-free technology like Bluetooth, special apps, or dedicated voice commands.
In 2021, approximately one in five crashes in Texas were caused by distracted driving. That same year, roughly 2,924 people sustained severe injuries, and 431 died from distracted driving crashes. By implementing hands-free laws, Texas aims to reduce the number of traffic accidents and save lives.
Distracted Driving and Negligence
When a driver is distracted by a phone or device, they reduce their ability to react to sudden changes. Distracted driving can be considered negligence under Texas law for personal injuries. Negligence is when a driver fails to exercise reasonable care while driving, causing harm to others.
If a driver causes an accident while using a phone or other electronic device, they may be liable for personal injuries, property damage, and other losses. If a distracted driver injured you, consult a personal injury attorney to learn more about how a claim or lawsuit can help recover your losses.
Consequences of Violating Hands-Free Laws
Violating hands-free laws in Texas comes with expensive fines. Under current statutes, a first-offense violation is punishable with a fine of $99. Subsequent offenses can result in penalties upwards of $200 and additional consequences, like a suspended license.
Whenever it’s determined a driver caused a crash while violating hands-free laws, they may also face criminal charges, including reckless driving and other offenses.
Exceptions for Hands-Free Law Violations
Currently, only a few legal exceptions exist for using a mobile device while driving, including:
- Emergency situations
- Mounted GPS devices
- Parked or stopped vehicles
When in doubt, it’s always best to pull over and use your device while your vehicle is in a safe place that doesn’t endanger other motorists.
Effective Ways to Avoid Using a Device While Driving
The most effective way to avoid distracted driving accidents is to avoid using your phone or other electronic devices altogether.
However, if you must use your device while on the road, you can help offset the likelihood of a crash by engaging in safe practices, such as:
- Ask a passenger for help
- Plan your route ahead
- Turn off notifications
- Use a special driving app
- Wear a headset to answer calls
Mitigating the risk of a crash can go a long way in preventing severe injuries and even death.
Proving Distracted Driving in Texas
Proving a distracted driving claim in Texas can be challenging, especially when cell phone use is involved. However, a seasoned personal injury lawyer can launch an investigation to obtain crucial evidence and help prove your case.
- Eyewitness testimony
- Police reports
- Phone records
- Video or photo evidence
- Expert testimony
Every case that involves distracted driving is different, and the circumstances will determine the best course of action. A personal injury lawyer can help you hold negligent drivers accountable for their actions. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.