Six years ago, Texas Governor Rick Perry vetoed a ban on texting while driving as an affront to personal liberty. This year, a Republican legislature and Republican governor said that personal liberty needs to be curtailed in the sake of their view of public safety. As of September 1, 2017, texting and in the act driving in Texas is a traffic-ticket level, Class C offense. Although the legislature created several exceptions that will be noted below, an officer who suspects that you are texting and driving, no matter what you are doing, will have a reasonable suspicion that you are violating the law and be able to pull you over for further investigation.
However, as worded, this does not simply ban driving and “texting.” Under the new Section 545.4251(b) of the Texas Transportation Code, “[a]n operator commits an offense if the operator uses a portable wireless communication device to read, write, or send an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped. To be prosecuted, the behavior must be committed in the presence of or within the view of a peace officer or established by other evidence.” Thus, the statute bans reading, writing or sending electronic messages driving.
An electronic message is defined as “data that is read from or entered into a wireless communication device for the purpose of communicating with another person.” A wireless communication device is “a device that uses a commercial mobile service, as defined by 47 U.S.C. Section 332.”