Distracted Driving Laws in Austin and Texas

Law enforcement is starting to crack down on distracted driving around the country. While texting is the poster child of distracted driving campaigns, many police officers will pull people over for any activity that may impair driving. Eating/drinking, using a GPS system, watching a video, or adjusting the radio are all viable types of distracted driving.

Texas Cell Phone Laws

The state of Texas has not enacted comprehensive cellphone laws yet. If you are an adult driving in the countryside, you can still use your cellphone while driving. While there aren’t any specific laws for adults over the age of 18, a police officer still may pull you over if he or she thinks you are driving recklessly. Here are the current laws on statewide cellphone usage:

  • Everyone under age 18 is prohibited from using a cellphone while driving anywhere in the state. If you need to call or text someone, pull over to do so.
  • If you have only had your learner’s permit for 6 months or less, you cannot use a cellphone while driving.
  • Bus drivers are prohibited from using a cellphone on a bus when children are onboard or in the area.
  • Everyone must cease cellphone use when moving through a school zone.

If you are caught using a cellphone in any of these instances, you may face a fine of up to $500. Forty cities across Texas have their own distracted driving laws. Before you travel to another city in Texas, you may want to review the local ordinances for cellphone use to avoid a fine.

Austin Cell Phone Laws

As of January 1 2015, Austin is a hands-free cellphone city. The city ordinance stipulates all vehicle drivers and bicycle riders must stop using handheld devices while on the road. Bluetooth systems, headphones, and fixed GPS systems are still allowed. Anyone who is caught using a handheld device may face a fine of up to $500. Handheld devices include:

  • All mobile phones
  • PDAs
  • Tablets and readers
  • Pagers
  • Handheld navigation systems
  • Gaming devices
  • Laptops
  • Music players

The only time a driver may legally use a handheld device while in motion is to contact emergency services or to report a crime/accident. City leaders encourage all drivers to pull over before calling if possible.

Distracted Driving in Accident Cases

Being cited and fined in a distracted driving offense is costly, but it does not have long-term repercussions. Distracted driving in an accident case, on the other hand, can affect how the court views a case. If a claimant was driving distracted, the court may proportionately reduce the amount of compensation owed. In cases where a defendant was driving distracted, a claimant may have a better opportunity to secure an increased settlement. Proving distracted driving is often a key factor in accident cases.

Avoiding Distracted Driving

With clear laws on cellphone use, you can easily avoid receiving a warning or citation. The rules on other distracted driving activities are not as clear cut. You may not understand which other distracted driving activities to completely avoid and which to reduce. For instance, a mother may not think twice about reaching into the back of a seat to give a child a pacifier, but the action can put many peoples’ lives in danger.

If you are prone to distracted driving, focus on the road ahead and use hands-free devices to communicate. Ask passengers to help you complete activities that might otherwise distract you, and pull over if you need to readjust something or pick up a dropped item.

Determining the role of distracted driving in a personal injury case can be complex, and proving or disproving the activity may significantly affect the case outcome. If you have been injured in an accident involving distracted driving, contact Joe Lopez Law in Austin today.