Texas Passes Ban on Texting While Driving

by Littler

On June 6, 2017, Texas became the 47th state to enact a state-wide ban on texting while driving.  The new law (HR 62) prohibits drivers from reading, writing or sending electronic messages unless the vehicle is stopped.  It does not, however, prohibit dialing a number to call someone, setting a GPS device, listening to music programs or even surfing on the Internet. 

Under the new law, you cannot be arrested for the sole offense of “texting while driving.” In order to be prosecuted, HR 62 requires the violation to be committed “in the presence of or within the view of a peace officer or established by other evidence.”1  A driver’s first offense is punishable by a fine between $25 and $99.  Any subsequent offenses will carry a fine between $100 and $200. Additionally, the Department of Motor Vehicles is not authorized to assign points to a driver’s license for a “texting while driving offense.”

Punishment under HR 62 becomes much stricter if, at trial for the offense, it is shown that the defendant caused the death or serious bodily injury of another person.  In such a situation, the offense will become a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $4,000 and confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one year. Additionally, if the conduct constituting the offense is also a violation of another law, the defendant may be prosecuted under either law, or both.

Potential Defenses

A driver may have a defense to prosecution if the driver was:

  • Using a hands-free device2 including voice-operated technology;
  • Reporting illegal activity or summoning emergency help;
  • Reading an electronic message that the person reasonably believed concerned an emergency; or
  • Relaying information to a dispatcher or digital network through a device affixed to the vehicle as part of the driver’s job.                    

The law would not apply to drivers of authorized emergency or law enforcement vehicles acting in an official capacity.  It also would not apply to drivers licensed by the Federal Communications Commission operating a radio frequency device other than a portable wireless communication device.

HR 62 prohibits the seizure or inspection of a driver’s cell phone by a peace officer unless it is authorized by another law.  Finally, HR 62 also prohibits the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles from assigning points to a driver’s license for a texting-while-driving offense.

Special Session

Governor Abbot is calling a special session of the Texas legislature starting July 18 to consider amendments to the new law.  Abbott wants to block local governments from any regulation of mobile devices.  This would nullify tougher cellphone regulations that are currently in place in about 40 Texas cities including Austin, San Antonio and El Paso.  In these cities, drivers are required to use hands-free devices for phone calls.

State Rep. Tom Craddick, (R-Midland) who authored HR 62, opposes such pre-emption because he believes it would weaken mobile usage laws throughout the state.    Craddick believes that such issues should be left to local governments.  He says it will be difficult to predict how the pre-emption proposal will fare since during the recent legislative session, many legislators seemed adamant about letting cities regulate the issue. 

Keeping Your Eyes on the Road           

Individuals who drive while sending or reading a text message are 23 times more likely to be involved in a car crash than other drivers.  According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an auto crash than driving while intoxicated.3

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has made it clear that it is an employer’s responsibility and legal obligation to have a clear, unequivocal and enforced policy against texting while driving. Companies that require texting while driving, create incentives that encourage or condone texting while driving, or structure work so that texting while driving is a practical necessity for workers to carry out their jobs, may be subject to citations and penalties. 

Employers should establish clear policies that unequivocally prohibit texting while operating any kind of motorized vehicles.  Employers should also carefully evaluate existing policies and the nature of their workplace to ensure that there are no incentives or un-written policies and practices that encourage the use of hand-held devices while driving.

Finally, employers should consider the growing number of electronic devices and applications that can block the use of cell phones while the vehicle is moving.  These devices and applications can be effective and relatively inexpensive.  Alternatively, if texting is a necessary part of the employee’s job, the employer should consider devising a schedule that allows for routine breaks when the vehicle is stopped to allow for the communications or data entry to be completed.


See Tex. Trans. Code, § 545.4251 (available at http://www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/85R/billtext/pdf/HB00062F.pdf#navpanes=0 .

2 Under HB 62, a “hands-free device” is defined as a feature or attachment that allows use of a wireless communication device without use of either of the operator’s hands.  A “wireless communication device” is defined as a device, such as a cell phone, that uses a commercial mobile service.

Matt Richtel, “In Study, Texting Lifts Crash Risk by Large Margin,” (July 27, 2009), available at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/28/technology/28texting.html


Written by:


Littler on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.