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How Texas is tackling distracted driving

Driving without giving your full attention to the road is always risky. Engaging in any activity that takes your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel-be it turning down the air conditioning, eating a sandwich or wrangling your kids in the back seat-constitutes distracted driving.

The advent of smart phones has only increased the opportunities for distraction while driving. In recent years, accidents and injuries caused by distracted drivers have spiked. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that upwards of 1,000 people each day are injured by distracted drivers.

New law

Last year, Texas took firm action to inhibit smart phone distraction while driving. It passed a new law, which is commonly known as the texting ban. In reality, this law extends beyond just texting. It prohibits reading, writing or sending any form of electronic message-text, email, Instagram post etc. Drivers may still use their cell phones to use hands-free technology, use GPS, play music or contact emergency services.

Penalties

To effectively deter distracted driving, the state is enforcing stiff penalties for infractions. Anyone caught sending or receiving messages while driving will be charged with a misdemeanor-which will go on their permanent criminal record. First-time offenders can be charged anywhere from $25 to $99. For repeat offenders, that fine jumps to between $100 and $200. In addition, if the driver's distracted behavior seriously injures another person, they could be charged up to $4,000 in fines and go to jail for up to a year.

The new law is a sobering reminder for Texans to stay alert and attentive on the road, and to drive defensively.

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