Is Texting and Driving Illegal in Austin, Texas?

Texting and driving is dangerous, but it’s also illegal in many parts of the country. While the state of Texas does not enforce a statewide ban on texting while driving, it does restrict certain activities. At the local level, cities, including Austin, are now hands-free zones. In addition to criminal penalties, those who text and drive may also face civil liability in accident cases.

Austin Texting Laws

At the state level, drivers with learning permits may not use a cellphone during their first six months on the road. All drivers under 18 must avoid using wireless devices on the road in any way. School bus drivers cannot use mobile devices in the presence of children, and all drivers must abstain from using a mobile device while in a school zone. While the state strongly urges safe driving practices, only these infractions currently warrant statewide prohibitions.

The rules change once a driver crosses the city limits of Austin. Within the city, all drivers (and bicyclists) must put down all mobile devices. Failing to do so could result in up to a $500 fine. The city does permit the use of hands-free systems, as well as the use of cellphones in the event of emergencies.

According to some of the most recent data available, texting bans may not do much to reduce distracted driving crashes. Drivers continue to engage in careless, distracted driving behaviors. A survey from Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) released in late 2016 indicates 68% of teens admit to using apps while driving. Many of them considered the act less dangerous than texting and driving or driving under the influence.

Teens aren’t the only ones. Older adults and parents may find themselves checking emails or engaging in other activities on a smartphone.

While the laws fight to prevent people from texting and driving, Austin personal injury attorneys take a different approach. Every time a distracted driver causes an accident, injured individuals raise awareness for the negligence and dangers of distractions on the roadways.

Texting and Driving Is Distracted Driving – an Act of Negligence

In car accident cases, a plaintiff does not need to prove illegal behavior to win a case and secure compensation. To prove a claim, the plaintiff needs to prove the defendant owed him or her a duty of care, the defendant breached that duty in an act of negligence, the plaintiff suffered an injury, and the defendant’s actions proximately caused the injury. Traffic legality aside, if a plaintiff can prove distracted driving contributed to an accident, he or she will likely prove the claim.

Texting while driving is dangerous. When drivers take their eyes off the road for a few seconds, they may blindly travel relatively long distances (sometimes over a hundred yards). In a matter of moments, a vehicle can swerve into another lane, miss a stoplight, or ram into the back of the next vehicle in line. Anything that steers a driver’s attention away from the road creates a breach in reasonable care. All drivers maintain a certain level of responsibility for safe driving. If the mobile activity caused or contributed to the accident, many courts will side with an injured plaintiff.

Filing a Personal Injury Claim After a Texting-Related Accident in Texas

After a car accident, a plaintiff must provide evidence of distracted driving. In cases involving mobile devices, this means searching through police reports, catching a driver’s admission, or requesting mobile phone records. Because many drivers post daily activities on social media, a plaintiff might find a public record of distracted driving online. Driving distracted increases the risk of other negligent behaviors such as reckless driving.