House Bill 62, also known as the Alex Brown Memorial Act, goes into effect statewide Friday, September 1, 2017, prohibiting texting while driving.
State Representative Tom Craddick fought for a distracted driving law for six years before HB 62 passed. Craddick stated, ‘”This is a landmark moment for public safety in Texas. For others, the day is bittersweet; it is a reminder that this legislation comes too late and came with a cost. I think of the Texans who lost their lives to these preventable crashes and unnecessary tragedies; I dedicate this bill to their memory.'”
Drivers can be convicted of a misdemeanor if witnessed writing or reading a text while their vehicle is moving. First-time offenders will pay a fine of $25 to $99, and second time offenders will be responsible for $100 to $200. For those distracted drivers who inadvertently cause death or severe bodily injury while texting and driving, a fine up to $4,000 and up to a year in jail are possible.
While Governor Abbot signed the bill into law on June 6, 2017, he pushed for more. “We don’t need a patchwork quilt of regulations that dictate driving practices in Texas.”
Currently, 60 Texas cities have local hands-free laws. SB 15, authored by State Senator Huffines, answers the Governor’s concern by voiding local ordinances. Huffines argued, “‘We don’t need 45 different cities passing different rules and regulations how to operate your cell phone.'” SB 15 passed the Senate on July 27, 2017.
Friday also marks a change in the law for young drivers seeking licenses. Now, along with being prohibited from using wireless communication devices while driving, they are required to view a 2-hour video on distracted driving under the Impact Texas Teen Drivers Program.
Whether or not you agree with hands-free laws, the words of state Rep. Eddie Lucio III ring true, “(The problem) is what drinking and driving was to previous generations.”