Is it Illegal to Send a Text While Stopped at a Red Light?
Here we go, the age old discussion of texting while driving. It is a massive problem despite all the laws passed to prevent it. The bottom line is not to do it. By doing it, you are putting yourself, your passengers and the drivers and people around you in grave danger. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life in jail because you hit and killed someone because you "needed" to reply "Ok" to your friend? Texting and driving is dangerous so don't do it. Period. Having said all that, there is only one place you can use your phone while behind the wheel and it be legal to do so in Texas. Let's take a look at the law.
Texting and Driving
September 1, 2017, that was the date that texting while driving became illegal in the state of Texas. So yes, if you have your phone propped up on the steering wheel to return a text to the friend you are meeting in five minutes, you are absolutely breaking the law and any punishment you receive for doing it is warranted. If a person driving next to you is yelling at you to put your phone away, you can't get mad at them because you, the texter behind the wheel, is in the wrong. Put your phone away while driving. The distraction of your phone makes you as dangerous as someone who is intoxicated behind the wheel. Don't risk spending the rest of your life in jail because you hit a pedestrian or caused a wreck that took someone's life because you were texting behind the wheel.
The Laws of Texting While Driving
Here are the laws regarding texting while driving:
- You cannot send or receive (meaning picking up your phone to read) electronic messages while driving in Texas.
- Using your phone while in an activated school zone is illegal. Slow down to the posted speed limit while the lights are flashing and get off your phone.
- It is illegal for a school bus driver to use their phone at any time while behind the wheel with the exception of an emergency situation.
- For those with a learner's permit, it is illegal to use a phone for any reason, even making a call using Bluetooth, with the exception of an emergency.
- It is illegal for any driver under the age of 18 to use their phone while behind the wheel including talking on the phone using Bluetooth except in an emergency.
An operator commits an offense if the operator uses a portable wireless communication device to read, write, or send an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped. To be prosecuted, the behavior must be committed in the presence of or within the view of a peace officer or established by other evidence. - Texas Texting and Driving Law
There is Only One Exception to This Law
For a driver over the age of 18, there is only one exception to texting while behind the wheel, it is when the vehicle is stopped. That can be in a parking lot or while waiting at a red light at an intersection. As long as the vehicle IS NOT in motion, you can return a text. So basically, if you get that text from your friend they are "OMW," wait until a red light or pull over into a parking lot to send an "Ok." By doing it that way, you avoid any risk of hitting a pedestrian or causing a serious accident.
The Punishment if Caught
First off, the punishment if caught shouldn't be your concern when it comes to texting and driving. You need to have the self discipline to realize the immediate danger you are putting everyone around you in by texting while driving. Don't do it. Period. But if you are caught, a first offense can be a fine of up to $99. Any ticket after that can be a fine of up to $200. That's Texas law, some Texas cities have even stricter policies in place that could result in even bigger fines or other harsher punishments.
As I've written several times already in this article, put your phone away while driving. Don't send a text, read a text, send an email, read an email, fidget with your phone, don't do anything with your phone while you are driving. It is not worth the price you might pay for ending someone's life or causing a major accident that severely injuries several people. Texting while driving IS NOT worth it. Period.