DWT – the new driving offense

Driving while texting. Or DWCW — Driving While Communicating Wirelessly. Some cities have had ordinances on the books banning DWT for some time, and we all know the no-DWT in school zones. But this is comprehensive.

I am going to shamelessly steal an excellent write-up Jerry Bullard that was recently communicated, but not wirelessly while driving!

As of September 1st, texting and using other types of electronic messaging while driving is illegal in Texas.  HB 62 prohibits drivers from using “a portable wireless communication device to read, write, or send an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped.”  Under the new law, “electronic message” means “data that is read from or entered into a wireless communication device for the purpose of communicating with another person.”  However, it is an affirmative defense to prosecution if a driver uses a portable wireless communication device in conjunction with a hands-free device or to do, among other things, the following: (1) navigate using a GPS or other navigation system; (2) report illegal activity, summon emergency help, or enter information into an app that provides information relating to traffic and road conditions to app users; (3) read an electronic message that the person reasonably believed concerned an emergency; or (4) to activate a function that plays music.  Of course, drivers may still get pulled over if a police officer suspects them of texting or using the device for other prohibited purposes.

HB 62 includes provisions intended to preempt local texting-and-driving ordinances; however, it does not necessarily supersede stricter bans (i.e., hands-free laws) that currently exist in many Texas cities.  . . . .  Also, here is a link to Dallas attorney Jeff Rasansky’s blog, which provides an excellent overview of the law (post-HB 62) and summarizes several municipal ordinances currently in effect: http://www.jrlawfirm.com/blog/texas-texting-and-driving-laws/#hands-free.

Violations of the law enacted by HB 62 are punishable by a fine of $25-99 for first-time offenders; $100-200 for repeat offenders. HB 62 also provides that, if an accident caused by prohibited conduct results in the death or serious bodily injury of another person, the driver can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $4,000 and confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one year (in addition to any other charges or penalties).

— From an email by Jerry D. Bullard of Adams, Lynch & Loftin, P.C., Grapevine, TX. (with permission)