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Ask 2: Is texting while driving illegal in Houston?

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At KPRC 2, we’re dedicated to keeping Houstonians informed. As part of our new Ask 2 series, the newsroom will answer your questions about all things Houston.

The question: Is texting while driving illegal in Houston?

The answer: Yes.

Texting and driving is banned in most states, including Texas. In 2017, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bill that created a statewide ban on texting while driving.

The ban treats texting and driving as a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $25-99 for first-time offenders, and $100-200 for repeat offenders. The law also states that if an accident caused by texting and driving results in the death or serious bodily injury of another person, the offender could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine as much as $4,000 and confinement in jail up to one year, in addition to any other charges or punishments.

Per the law, the operator of a motor vehicle commits an offense if said operator uses a portable wireless communication device to read, write or send an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle unless the motor vehicle is stopped.

It’s important to note that this ban has its limits. Texas motorists can still use their phones to operate navigation tools, read what they reasonably believe are electronic messages related to an emergency, or to activate a function that plays music, among other exceptions.

Additionally, Texas law prohibits motorists from texting and using handheld devices while driving in school zones. Drivers under the age of 18 are barred from using wireless communications devices while they drive and school bus operators cannot use their phones while driving if children are present, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

Many cities throughout the state enacted stricter local ordinances related to cell phone use while driving.

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