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Texting and driving officially banned in Texas

As of September 1, it's illegal to do most anything on your phone while driving. And some cities have harsh penalties.

Starting Friday, a new law in Texas bans drivers from reading, writing, or sending any electronic messages while driving.

“I think it’s a good thing, I think anything that makes even just one person think twice before they take the phone out and text will make a difference,” one San Antonio woman said.

The first time you're caught, you can be fined up to $99. A second offense can cost you up to $200.

“It’s reckless disregard for human life is what it is,” said Josh Donat with TxDOT, who also explained that it’s important to remember that many Texas cities have their own ordinances.

If you’re in San Antonio City Limits, the laws gets even stricter. The city prohibits drivers from even touching their phones while driving. Within city limits, you can use your hand to activate or deactivate a call, but cannot hold the phone while talking.

“Last year, we had more than 109,000 crashes that were due to just distracted driving," Donat noted. "That is a ton of crashes, and that’s unacceptable."

Some smartphone manufacturers have already caught on.

“It’s not safe for people to be texting and driving,” one San Antonio man said. “I actually just updated my phone to the new iOS 11. It has this great feature called 'do not disturb.'”

The feature arrives this fall and comes in handy for everyone, especially for those under 18 years old, for which all cell phone use while driving, including hands-free, is banned in the state.

Exceptions to the new law include emergency communication or electronic messaging when the vehicle is stopped.

State officials hope this will get Texans to put the phones down, preventing injuries and saving lives.

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