Understanding the Legal Consequences of Distracted Driving

Understanding the Legal Consequences of Distracted Driving

As you get behind the wheel, it can be tempting to check your phone or respond to messages. However, distracted driving poses serious risks that could lead to legal consequences if you cause a car accident. Educating yourself on the laws in your state and the penalties for distracted driving is crucial to making smart decisions and avoiding hefty fines or jail time. With knowledge and preparation, you can stay focused on the road and drive responsibly. This article provides an in-depth look at the legal ramifications you could face if caught driving distracted. Heed the information to protect yourself and others sharing the road.

What Counts as Distracted Driving in Texas?

In Texas, distracted driving refers to any activity that diverts a driver's attention from the road, including:

  • Using a mobile phone or electronic device to text, email, browse social media or access the Internet
  • Eating or drinking
  • Grooming (e.g. applying makeup, brushing hair, shaving)
  • Reading books, newspapers or other materials
  • Adjusting vehicle controls like mirrors, seats or the radio/music player
  • Engaging with passengers
  • Watching videos or movies

Handheld Electronic Devices

Texas prohibits all drivers from using handheld cell phones and other electronic devices to view, send or compose electronic messages. This includes activities like texting, browsing social media, watching videos and accessing the Internet or email. Hands-free device usage is permitted if the driver exercises caution.

Consequences of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is extremely dangerous and illegal in Texas. If convicted, penalties may include:

  • Fines of up to $500 for a first offense and up to $1,000 for subsequent offenses
  • Potential driver's license suspension for repeat offenders
  • Higher insurance premiums
  • Possible jail time for causing a serious accident while distracted

The risks far outweigh any benefit of multitasking while driving. Stay focused on the road - your life and the lives of others depend on it.

The Dangers and Statistics of Distracted Driving Accidents

Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents, resulting in thousands of injuries and deaths each year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2018 alone there were 2,841 deaths attributed to distracted driving in the United States.

Distracted driving involves diverting your attention from the road, whether physically or psychologically. Common diversions include using mobile devices, eating or drinking, grooming, operating vehicle components like GPS navigation systems, and engaging with passengers. These seemingly minor diversions significantly impair your ability to safely operate a vehicle by:

  • Delaying reaction times: Studies show cell phone usage while driving can delay reaction times as much as alcohol impairment.
  • Impairing awareness: Distractions reduce your awareness of surroundings and ability to anticipate potential hazards.
  • Compromising decision making: Your mind struggles to efficiently process information from multiple sources, impacting your judgment and decision making.

With mobile device usage now ubiquitous, cell phone distraction has become one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving. Sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, long enough to travel the length of a football field at normal highway speeds.

To reduce the risks of distracted driving accidents, many states have banned handheld cell phone use and texting while driving. However, the only way to fully prevent distracted driving is to give your full attention to the road. Your life and the lives of others on the road depend on it. Stay alert, avoid distractions, and keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.

Texas Laws on Distracted Driving and Associated Penalties

In Texas, there are laws prohibiting distracted driving to help improve road safety. As a driver, it's important to understand these laws and the penalties for violating them.

Texas has a statewide ban on texting while driving. This includes reading, writing, or sending electronic messages via a wireless communication device like a cell phone. Violating this law can result in fines up to $99 for a first offense and $200 for subsequent offenses.

Some cities in Texas, including Austin, have additional ordinances banning the use of handheld electronic devices while driving altogether. This includes making phone calls, checking maps, using social media or streaming music. Violating these local ordinances can result in fines up to $500.

For drivers under 18 years of age, Texas has a graduated driver licensing program with additional restrictions. This includes a ban on all cell phone use, including hands-free devices. Violating this restriction results in an automatic license suspension.

In the event of a crash, distracted driving can also lead to serious criminal charges like reckless driving. If the distracted driving results in injury or death, it may be prosecuted as manslaughter. Penalties for these offenses include large fines, license suspension or revocation, and even jail time.

To avoid legal trouble and stay safe on the road, it's best for all drivers to avoid distractions from electronic devices while behind the wheel. Put your phone away, keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.

Proving Fault in a Distracted Driving Accident Case

To prove that a distracted driver was at fault in an accident, several factors must be established. You will need to gather evidence showing that the other driver was distracted at the time of the crash and that the distraction caused the accident. Some key points to keep in mind:

  • Eyewitness accounts: Get statements from eyewitnesses, passengers, or others who saw the driver distracted before the crash occurred. Their testimony can help establish that the driver was texting, talking on the phone or otherwise distracted.
  • Cell phone records: Request the driver’s cell phone records to determine if they were on a call or sending a text at the time of the accident. Most carriers can provide records showing the time and duration of calls and texts. These records are crucial for proving distracted driving.
  • Dashcam or video footage: Check if any dashcams, security cameras or other video captured footage of the driver distracted before the accident. The footage can clearly show the driver was not paying attention due to a phone or other device.
  • Delayed reaction: A delayed reaction to events like traffic signals changing or vehicles braking ahead often indicates distracted driving. Evidence the other driver did not react in a timely manner helps establish fault.
  • Swerving or drifting: Witness statements or footage showing the vehicle swerving, drifting into another lane or off the road altogether point to the driver being distracted and not in full control of the vehicle.
  • Admission of guilt: Occasionally, the other driver may admit to being distracted at the time of the crash. Obtain a written or recorded statement from them acknowledging they were texting, talking on the phone or doing another activity that took their attention off the road. Their admission can be compelling evidence to prove fault.

By gathering as much evidence as possible from these sources, you can build a case proving the other driver was distracted and at fault for the accident. Their negligence and inattentiveness caused the crash, and the evidence will show their unacceptable behavior behind the wheel. With proof of their distraction, you have grounds to pursue compensation for your injuries and damages.

Why Hire a Texas Car Accident Lawyer if You're a Victim of Distracted Driving

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle crash due to a distracted driver, you should consider consulting with an experienced Texas car accident lawyer. They can advise you of your legal rights and help you pursue compensation for your injuries and other losses.

Knowledge of Relevant Laws

Car accident attorneys have a strong understanding of Texas traffic laws, including regulations banning distracted driving. They know how to investigate the details of an accident to determine if the other driver violated any laws by using their cell phone or engaging in other distracting behaviors behind the wheel. The attorney can then build a case to prove the other driver's negligence and liability for the collision.

Handling Insurance Claims

Dealing with insurance companies can be complicated and frustrating. A car accident lawyer knows how to properly document injuries and vehicle damage to support an insurance claim. They can negotiate with insurance adjusters to help maximize your settlement and ensure all costs related to the accident are covered. If the insurance company denies your claim or offers an unacceptable settlement, the attorney can take further legal action on your behalf.

Pursuing Compensation Through Litigation

In some cases, filing a personal injury lawsuit may be necessary to recover full compensation for serious injuries or damages. A car accident attorney can represent you in court and advocate for economic damages like medical bills and lost wages as well as noneconomic damages including pain and suffering. They have experience litigating motor vehicle accident cases and understand how to build a strong case, question witnesses, and present persuasive arguments to a judge and jury.

The legal system can be complex, but with the help of a skilled car accident lawyer, victims of distracted driving crashes have the best chance of achieving justice and fair compensation. If you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver in Texas, don't delay in consulting with an attorney regarding your legal options.


While distracted driving may seem harmless, it is illegal and dangerous. As this article has shown, the legal consequences can include substantial fines, driver’s license suspension, increased insurance rates, and even jail time. These laws and punishments exist to protect you and others on the road. Despite, lawyers at Fletcher Law are available for the legal help. When you get behind the wheel, make the smart decision to stay focused, avoid distractions, and drive responsibly. The safety of yourself and others depends on it. Remember, a moment of distraction is never worth the risk of a crash, injury, or loss of life. Stay safe, stay focused, and keep your eyes on the road.