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Texas’ Texting While Driving Ban

According to reports, the Texas legislature has approved a law which will give police the authority to crack down on motorist texting while driving.  Sources say the Texas lawmakers passed a statewide ban on sending or reading emails, text messages or instant messages while driving.  Reportedly, unless the Governor Rick Perry vetoes the bill it will become enforceable on September 1, 2011.  Sources say motorist who violate this law could be fined up to 200 dollars.

Reportedly, the version of the bill which actually passed through the senate is tougher than bills previously debated.  Sources say the previous version of the bill would have outlawed sending text messages, but not reading them while driving. 

However, safety experts have warned against encouraging motorists to read texts.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nationwide information shows distracted driving caused 20 percent of traffic deaths in 2009, up from 10 percent in 2005.  Lawmakers believe cellphone use is one of the most common distractions.

Reportedly, the legislature made  both acts of sending and reading a text or email illegal in order to relieve officers from determining what the motorist was doing. According to reports, the bill includes a handful of exceptions.  For example, drivers would still be allowed to input a phone number into their device for purposes of making a call. Sources say texting would still be allowed for those who use hands-free technology, a global positioning system or a device attached to the car.  Reportedly, drivers whose job includes communicating with a dispatcher would still be able to send job-related texts.

Sources say the law also prevents Texas drivers younger than 18 from using wireless devices in their first year of driving.  Reportedly, the texting ban has been inserted into an unrelated bill, which grants former peace officers the ability to carry a concealed handgun without a license.

The new law banning texting while driving will also have a significant impact on how Texas courts determine liability in auto accident cases.  Once the law is put into place any driver involved in an auto accident while sending or reading a text message will automatically be found to be at fault.  The fact that there is a law which prohibits texting and driving law means texting and driving will be “per se” negligent.


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