According to the Texas Department of Transportation, 20% of auto accidents involve a distracted driver. To reduce these crashes, the state imposes fines and other penalties for using a smartphone or electronic device behind the wheel. When Texas passed its distracted driving laws in 2017, it became the 47th state to place restrictions on texting and driving.

If you drive in Texas, make sure you know the rules about device use in your vehicle to help keep everyone safe on the road.

Illegal driver actions

Drivers may not send, read or receive electronic messages while operating their vehicles. This includes emails, texts and social media posts.

However, the law does not prohibit phone use for navigation and media streaming purposes. Drivers may also use a hands-free device to make a phone call while behind the wheel. However, the law prohibits any calls for drivers who have learner’s permits, drivers younger than 18, drivers in school zones and bus drivers who are transporting children.

Penalties for distracted driving

The first instance of distracted driving is a misdemeanor offense. Drivers will receive a ticket for $25 to $99 for the first offense with penalties of up to $200 for a subsequent offense.

An individual who causes serious injury or death in a distracted driving accident can receive up to a year in jail. This conviction also carries a fine of up to $4,000.

In addition to these laws, many Texas cities have developed stricter driving distraction ordinances. To remain in compliance, make sure you know the rules of the towns where you plan to travel by car.

Better yet, completely stow your smartphone until you arrive at your destination. Doing so can reduce the risk of a serious auto accident injury. According to a 2020 report by 12News, Beaumont has the second-highest rate of fatal accidents in Texas, with many of these deaths caused by distracted driving.