Texting while driving can risk both life and wallet

Texting while driving could soon mean an expensive ticket. Beginning Sept. 1, texting while driving a moving vehicle will be illegal in Texas.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law in June. The ban has been at least 10 years in the making as safety activists fought to end the dangerous practice of using a phone while behind the wheel. First time offenders face a fine of up to $99 dollars with a $200 fine after that.

The new law is clearly defined as holding a cellphone to “read, write or send an electronic message while driving.” Accessing the internet to use a navigation system and play music is still permitted.

Safety advocates took action after a pickup truck crashed into a church minibus in Uvalde, killing 13 people. Federal investigators concluded that the truck’s driver, Jack Dillon Young, was intoxicated and checking a text on his phone. The tragedy led to Abbott signing legislation to ban the practice. Since many cities in Texas already had local ordinances on cellphone usage while driving, Abbott said he wanted to have one framework to deal with the issue.

 The fine for texting and driving in Texas will be $99-$200.

The fine for texting and driving in Texas will be $99-$200.

“We don’t need a patchwork of regulations,” he said during the special session of the legislature this summer.

Texas has about 16 million licensed drivers, the second most in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. It is the one of the last states in the union to enact a ban; 47 states already have such a law in place.

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), texting while driving causes a 400 percent increase in time spent with eyes off the road, making it very difficult to do both at the same time.

Answering a text takes away the drivers attention for about five seconds. Traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to travel the length of a football field.

According to AAA, texting while driving is more distracting than driving under the influence of alcohol. It’s six times more likely to cause an accident than driving drunk. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that nearly 330,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving, which they estimate causes 25 percent of all auto accidents.

Teen drivers are four times more likely than adults to get into car crashes or near-crashes when talking or texting on a cellphone. A poll from the AAA found 94 percent of teenage drivers acknowledge the dangers of texting and driving; 35 percent admitted to doing it anyway.

The NSC estimates that driving while texting causes 21 percent of all fatal accidents involving teen drivers.