Another year, another attempt to make three incongruent (if not volatile) factors — technology, teen drivers and transportation safety — fit happily together.
Here’s a little bit more information about some cell phone-specific changes to Texas law that you should be aware of:
Texas joins 20 other states in taking this kind of precaution (but not the six states that have banned all ages from using hand-held phones while driving). There are a few caveats — drivers under 18 who got their license before September 1, 2009 are still restricted from using a wireless device for six months — but this law fairly clear. Sorry, teens.
Texting While Driving
Included in the under-18 law, quite obviously, is texting. And e-mailing. And iPhone-ing. And fantasy football trading… You get the picture. No wireless communicating at all. Here’s why:
A Texas Transportation Institute survey revealed that of 10,000 Texas teen drivers, nearly one-third acknowledge texting while driving despite a belief that such a practice is dangerous.
“The autos now are faster and more powerful. You have people driving with their knees while they put on makeup and answer their iPhones,” Rep. Joe Pickett, an El Paso Democrat told the Dallas Morning News. “We create our own problems.”
Still, even this law isn’t without controversy. Some have raised questions about the hypocrisy involved when states — including Texas — send mass texts to drivers (albeit ones warning of potentially dangerous road conditions).
Calling in a School Zone
According to House Bill 55, it’s now illegal to use a hand-held cell phone in an active school zone, unless your car is fully stopped (as in waiting to pick up your kid—we wouldn’t recommend risking whipping out your phone while stopped temporarily in traffic or at a red light) or calling in an emergency.
Communities can only enforce this if the school zone has warning signs in place, but — for the students’ sake and yours — it’s a good idea to get into the habit of hanging up around the kids. Fines can reach $200.