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Cell phone texting while driving becomes illegal Sept. 1

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Don't text and drive!

Don't text and drive!

Paola Rangel

Paola Rangel

Don't text and drive!

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated on Tuesday, September 5.

Texting on a cell phone while driving in Texas becomes illegal Friday, Sept. 1. The law prohibits drivers on public roads from using a wireless communication device to read, write or send electronic messages while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers may use hands-free devices, including Bluetooth systems. The new law doesn’t prohibit the use of GPS systems or music apps.

The new law overrides texting and driving ordinances previously passed by cities, but does not preempt city ordinances that go beyond texting while driving, such as cities that have hands-free only ordinances, even for talking on a cell phone.

The Texas Legislature passed the new law in May 2017. This law promises to lower the number of car accidents caused by distracted drivers on their phones, and overall keep everyone on the roads safe.

“We follow state laws, and the new texting and driving law will be in effect on campus,” affirms Bryan Rickert, Chief, Panola College Police Department. Holding the phone while making a call is part of the prohibition and you could be stopped by law enforcement. Talking on cellular phones has been illegal in school zones in the past.

Earbuds will not be categorized as illegal, but, Chief Rickert says, it is better if they are not utilized. He said that law enforcement personnel in this area will participate in a seminar next month that will fully explain and clarify the details of the new laws passed by the Texas Legislature.

Fines ranging from $25 to $99 will go into effect on September 1. Rickert states, “the DA or city judge will decide what the charge is.” However, fines can go up to $200.

Because it is common to see people talking and texting while driving around campus, Rickert’s recommendation is, “if you have to text, pull over and park somewhere instead.” The Panola Police Department will advise students of any changes to the provisions of the new law.

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