HOUSTON, TX — Texting while driving will soon be illegal in Texas.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a ban on texting while driving into law Tuesday, making Texas one of the last states to adopt such a policy. Violating the law, which will take effect Sept. 1, will be punishable by a fine of up to $99 for first-time offenders and $200 for repeat offenses.
According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, Arizona, Missouri and Montana will be the only states without a texting while driving ban.
Under the new law, drivers may not use a phone to read, write, or send electronic messages while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped. That includes texting and emailing, but does not include dialing a number to call someone, setting a GPS device or surfing the Internet.
The issue gained new interest after a church bus crash killed 13 people this past March. Investigators learned the driver of the pickup truck that hit the bus was checking for a text when the crash happened.
Texas drivers are divided on whether the ban will have much of an effect.
“I think it will prevent lots of accidents. I have noticed that people who have been texting while driving are more prone to accidents,” said Nelson Flores.
“Well I think it will be more dangerous because they will be hiding it to look at the screen instead of paying attention on the road while driving,” said Mary Jane Concepcion.
Some lawmakers are concerned that ban will be difficult and confusing to enforce, and will give police new powers to pull over drivers who might be doing something legal if they mistake the presence of a phone or mobile device is being used for texting.
“I think it is a great law. It it long overdue. Many states already have this law in the books,” said Houston Officer Ted Wang. This law is intended to protect the drivers and the passengers and the populace in general.
According to Texas state officials, in 2015 more than 105,000 traffic crashes involved distracted driving, leading to at least 476 fatalities.
While a new law won’t put a complete end to texting while driving, Texas hopes to help prevent the unnecessary loss of life, and reduce preventable crashes.