Confusing Texas Cell Phone Laws
In 2011, Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued a veto against Texas House Bill 242, which would have banned texting while driving. Perry said he supported measures that make Texas roads safer for everyone. But he refused to “micromanage the behavior of adults“. This has created a complicated map of legal and illegal cell phone use in Texas.
There is no statewide law banning all use of cell phones while driving. After Perry’s veto, there is also no statewide law banning texting.
But like many other states, Texas has restrictions for young and new drivers. Texas also has a specific law for the use of cell phones in school zones.
What really complicate things are numerous local ordinances. When Perry refused to approve the texting ban, cities took the matter in their own hands. That is why texting and/or the use of handheld devices while driving may be banned in one Texas city, but not in the next. Today, more than 90 cities have adopted local ordinances regarding cell phone usage while driving.
Unfortunately, this confusing map of Texas laws will not change in a near future. The current Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, shares the previous governor’s dislike of further distracted driving legislation.
Summary of Texas Cell Phone Laws
1. There is no statewide law banning the use of cell phones while driving for all drivers.
2. Drivers with learner’s permits are prohibited from using handheld cell phones in the first six months of driving. If over 18, drivers may use hands-free cell phones.
3. Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using all wireless communications devices.
4. In school zones, all drivers are prohibited from texting and using handheld devices while driving.
5. Local ordinances may ban all uses of wireless communications devices while driving, ban on texting and other manual uses of wireless communication devices while driving, or ban just texting while driving.
Cities that Prohibits Texting
According to the Texas Legislative Council, the following cities have ordinances prohibiting texting while driving (updated July 2016):
Alamo, Arlington, Austin, Bellaire, Brownsville, Canyon, Conroe, Converse, Denton, Edinburg, Farmers Branch, Galveston, Grand Prairie, Groesbeck, Harlingen, Helotes, Jacksonville, Laguna Vista, Magnolia, Maypearl, McAllen, Meadowlakes, Midland, Mission, Missouri City, Mount Vernon, Nacogdoches, Palmview, Pampa, Peñitas, Richwood, Rowlett, San Angelo, Shoreacres, Stephenville, Snyder, Sweetwater, Tomball, and West University Place.
Cities that Prohibits Handheld Devices
The following cities have ordinances prohibiting the use of handheld devices while driving (updated July 2016):
Alice, Amarillo, Aransas Pass, Argyle, Austin, Bedford, Bee Cave, Buda, College Station, Corpus Christi, Deer Park, El Paso, Hurst, Kyle, Lake Dallas, Lakeway, Laredo, Little Elm, New Braunfels, Port Aransas, San Antonio, San Marcos, Schertz, Sinton, Universal City, Watauga, West Lake Hills, and Wimberley.
More local ordinances are added to those lists on a regular basis. Let us know if your city has enacted new bills.
You should also understand the difference between state laws and local ordinances for your Texas DPS test (the test will always have questions about state laws).
Photo of Greg Abbott by World Travel & Tourism Council (wikimedia)