New driving laws affect teens


Source: Wikimedia Commons

Catherine Mouer, Reporter

State legislators hope to lower vehicle accidents through new distracted driving laws and educational courses.

Distracted driving is the number one killer of drivers in America,” Staff Lieutenant Lonny Haschel, Texas Department of Public Safety, said. “Teen drivers are still learning and may make poor choices regarding cell phone use and multitasking in the vehicle instead of focusing on driving.”

The new law prohibits the use of handheld devices for communication while the vehicle is in motion. This includes reading, writing, or sending electronic messages. First offenders face a fine between $25-$100, and repeat offenders anywhere between $100-$200.

Haschel said, “There is no cell phone ban. 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.”

The law does not limit the use of hands-free devices at any time or handheld devices in emergency situations like calling 911.

The legislation also includes two new distracted driving courses for drivers of all ages. These free, video courses will feature the stories of people who lost their lives to distracted driving and aim to caution drivers.

Distracted driving, which is any action that draws a driver’s attention away from the road, is the leading cause of vehicle accidents. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, distracted driving led to more than 3,000 deaths and 391,000 injuries in 2015.

Senior Alexa DeCarlo said, “I think inexperience contributes a lot (to distracted driving). As teenagers, you have a lot going on all the time. You think about school, or practice, or extracurriculars. When you’re driving, you think you’re paying attention, but really in the back of your mind you’re thinking about so many other things.”