Is Texas’ New Texting While Driving Ban Safe?
A new law in Texas that prohibits texting while you drive is filled with ambiguities and loopholes, according to Houston’s KPRC News. Distracted and negligent driving play a big part in most traffic collisions, but is this new law helpful or harmful? Why are highway safety experts concerned? And what do drivers in Texas need to know about the dangers of texting and distracted driving? You’re about to learn those answers – and more.
Every year, about 30,000 of us in the U.S. die in negligence-related traffic collisions; thousands more are severely injured. And every year, lawmakers tweak and adjust each state’s in an effort to save just a few more lives. The consensus regarding the new texting law in Texas is that it’s been watered down by compromises to the point where it’s ineffective and unenforceable.
For example, before a law enforcement officer can cite a driver under the new statute, the officer must see the driver not only using a cell phone, but the officer must see that the driver is using the phone specifically for texting. Talking on your cell phone while driving remains legal in Texas, although it’s banned locally in several jurisdictions across the state.
WHEN DID THIS NEW LAW TAKE EFFECT?
The new law went into effect on September 1st with almost no publicity; that’s when Hurricane Harvey was bearing down on the state. The statute was watered down by a number of compromises in the Texas Legislature, so even if an officer goes to the trouble of citing a driver under the law, a number of defense arguments are available to drivers who contest the charge.
Some of the language in the statute, quite frankly, just isn’t clear, and that’s a result of the political compromises. The law seems to forbid the use of applications like Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Twitter while you’re driving, but it does not address the use of browsers, search functions, games, or other phone apps.
Nevertheless, State Representative Gene Wu of Houston, a co-author of the law, told KPRC, “I think for 99 percent of the circumstances, the law is very clear.” Representative Wu has admitted that the law could have been tougher, but he said that certain compromises had to be made to get any agreement in the Texas Legislature on a texting law.
WHAT DOES THE NEW LAW SPELL OUT – AND FAIL TO SPELL OUT?
The law exempts drivers who text during emergencies but fails to define what situations are deemed emergencies. Working people who are sending or receiving texts are exempted, provided that the phones they use are somehow affixed to their vehicles. Hands-free voice texting is also exempted.
How dangerous is texting while driving? The National Safety Council tells us that 28 percent of all motor traffic crashes now involve a driver either talking or texting on a cell phone. When a vehicle moves at 60 miles per hour – a typical Texas highway speed – drivers can travel the length of a football field in under 1.5 seconds. Taking your attention off the road while texting, even for 1.5 seconds, can be catastrophic.
AAA has conducted studies which find that drivers who are texting are 23 times more likely to be involved a traffic collision than motorists who avoid all cell phone use while driving. Hands-free devices aren’t really an answer, either. Several studies have indicated that drivers who are using hands-free devices stop focusing on the road and have slower response times.
IF YOU’RE IN A TRAFFIC CRASH, WHAT SHOULD YOU DO FIRST?
Most drivers in Texas strive to dodge the distractions that can cause traffic disasters. It’s best – and safest – when drivers can entirely avoid talking or texting on a cell phone, eating, reading, applying makeup, or reaching for something in the back seat. If you are involved in a traffic accident caused by negligence on a Texas street or highway, here’s what you need to do.
When a traffic crash happens, the first priority is to seek medical attention and to find out if others need it. Then call the local police, and when they arrive, ask them how you can obtain a copy of their accident report. Get the other driver’s name, address, contact information, license plate and driver’s license numbers, and full insurance information. If that driver is too injured, impaired, or hostile to help, ask the police to help you get the information you need.
Take as many photos – or have someone take them – as you can. You’ll need pictures of the vehicle damage, the general accident scene, the license plates, and also pictures of your own visible injuries. If there were eyewitnesses to the collision, try to get their names and some way that your attorney can reach them in case their testimonies or statements are needed.
If you are injured by negligence in Texas, you have the right to complete reimbursement for your medical expenses, your lost wages, and your pain and suffering – but you must be able to prove that a defendant’s negligence was the cause of your injury or injuries. In south Texas, negligence victims will need the legal services and advice of an experienced Edinburg auto accident attorney. They’ll need those photos too, and any available eyewitnesses.
WHY DO VICTIMS OF NEGLIGENCE NEED A PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER?
After a traffic accident, and especially if you have been injured, confess to nothing and do not sign any documents. Sometimes in these cases, the insurance company will offer an accident victim a settlement sum that is far less than the actual value of your case. Let an experienced Edinburg auto accident attorney – a trained and experienced negotiator – talk to the insurance company on your behalf.
If you choose to file a personal injury lawsuit to obtain compensation for your losses in an accident, it will probably be settled out of court. Most personal injury cases are, but if a reasonable settlement offer isn’t made to you, your attorney should be prepared to take your case to trial.
That’s why, if you’re injured by negligence in south Texas, you should not even consider representing yourself or hiring the wrong lawyer. You’ll need to put your case in the hands of an experienced Edinburg auto accident attorney who is both a skilled negotiator and a talented trial attorney.
Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingent fee basis and offer a free first consultation, so don’t let financial concerns or anything else keep you from seeking the justice – as well as the compensation – that you need and deserve if you’ve been injured by a negligent driver in Texas. If you’ve been injured by negligence, compensation is your right.