North Texas Daily

Texas thoughtfully outlawed texting and driving, but will find it hard to enforce

Texas thoughtfully outlawed texting and driving, but will find it hard to enforce

September 06
22:39 2017

We have all been guilty of texting while driving – admit it

You have used your phone while driving in the city of Denton. You have broken that city law before. But now, the entire state of Texas is jumping on the train. As of Sept. 1, Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 62 into law banning texting while driving statewide.

First-time offenders can be fined anywhere from $25-99 while fines for offenses beyond that will range from $100-200, but offenders will not have any points added to their driving record. Texas is the 47th state to outlaw texting while driving statewide. The law does not supersede stricter cell phone bans like the city of Denton has.

Denton outlaws all use of a handheld communications device while operating a vehicle in Denton city limits. It is considered a Class C misdemeanor.

With House Bill 62 comes another addition. One in five crashes in Texas are caused by distracted driving. Over 100,000 crashes in 2016 were caused by distracted driving and 455 of those resulted in a fatality. A distracted driving crash that results in death or serious bodily injury of another person can be met with a Class A misdemeanor, a fine not to exceed $4,000 and confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one year.

But how will officers enforce this?

It is very important to note House Bill 62 only outlaws “reading, writing, or sending electronic messages” with a “wireless communication device.” It is legal in most cities to use a cell phone for GPS navigation.

How can an officer prove you are texting while driving?

Subsection G of the law states an officer who stops a vehicle suspected of a violation “may not take possession of or otherwise inspect a portable wireless communication device in the possession of the operator unless authorized by the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Penal Code, or other law.”

If an officer may not take your phone and look at your text messages, again, how can they prove you are texting and driving?

Denton Police have faced this issue while trying to enforce handheld communication device bans since the city implemented it, according to public information officer Shane Kizer.

“It is incumbent on the officers to see them texting,” Kizer said. “You have to be able to distinguish that from using your device for something else. It makes it tough on the officer. [Officers] have to be safe while driving themselves.”

The law is a thoughtful one, and a step in the right direction. Texting while driving should absolutely be outlawed in Texas, and hopefully one day nationwide. Distracted driving is one of the biggest issues of the technological age.

But the enforcement of this law will obviously need work. As police departments across the state prepare to deal with this rampant issue, we can only hope a better way to distinguish whether a driver is texting while operating a motor vehicle will come about.

It will be a learning experience for departments across Texas – even those like Denton who have had this in place. Kizer agrees, and has a partial solution.

“There’s a way to enforce in a better way,” Kizer said. “Two-man patrol and have that type of enforcement. I’m sure there will be other things that come up as this law is being enforced across the state. Right now, it is what it is.”

Do not text and drive.

But if you do, you probably will not get caught.

Illustration by Theresa Sanchez

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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