Make sure you put down those devices while driving, Texas. Texting while driving is now banned across the state.
The law, recently signed by Governor Greg Abbott, goes into effect September 1, 2017.
As of September 1, drivers may not use a phone to “read, write, or send an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped.” That means no written communications at all when you’re driving. No Facebook. No Twitter. No quick text.
If cited and found guilty, drivers can face a fine of $25 to $99 for a first offense, and up to $200 per incident for repeat offenses. Anyone convicted of texting and driving who causes serious injury or death to others faces a fine of up to $4,000 and as long as one year in jail.
The new law does still allow you to use your phone to talk hands-free while driving. You also can use it to play music, operate a GPS, report a crime and seek emergency help.
Hands-Free Use Still Permitted
Under the new law, Texas motorists can still use a phone while driving, but only via “hands-free” features. Drivers will still be permitted to use hands-free devices that require them to only briefly touch the phone to activate or use the car itself to access features.
Connect Via Bluetooth
One way to use a mobile device hands-free in a car is via Bluetooth.
Many newer cars have the built-in ability to connect to a smartphone using Bluetooth, a type of wireless connection. Chances are if you’ve bought a vehicle in the past few years, it’s Bluetooth-enabled. Once your vehicle and device are Bluetooth enabled, you can use this feature to talk hands-free and even send messages without typing or taking your eyes off the road.
Many mobile devices these days often come with hands-free software built into them.
On most smartphones today, you can send text messages and use phone features via the virtual personal assistant, Siri or Google Assistant.
Start by saying “Hey, Siri” or “Okay, Google” to activate hands-free use; features will vary by phone and software, but most devices include existing features which allow users to text, search and use phone features hands-free. If your phone doesn’t have these features built in, check the app store to see what’s available for your device.
Play It Safe
While there are hands-free options for drivers to use, we would like to urge drivers to get their mobile use in before they hit the road.
Program your navigation system before you head out, make any calls you need before you get in the vehicle, and enjoy the brief break from social media.
If something comes up during your drive that you feel needs immediate attention, find a safe place to pull over. Always remember, no text or Facebook post is worth risking your life or the lives of others.
As an insurance provider, we know the impact adverse conditions and weather events can have. Being prepared and informed helps you protect what matters most.
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