Texas Cell Phone Ban While Driving

Has Texas banned the use of cell phones by drivers?

Claim:   A bill passed by the Texas legislature will outlaw using a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle as of 1 September 2003.

Status:   False.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2003]

I just received this information from the Harris County Medical Society regarding usage of cell phones in the car. Please make note of the changes in the Texas laws.

Origins:   It is true that a bill proposing a state law to ban the use of telephones by persons who are simultaneously operating motor vehicles (unless the phone is of a “hands-free” type) was submitted to the Texas House of Representatives in December 2002. The text of the bill, HB 281, read as follows:


SECTION 1. Subchapter I, Chapter 545, Transportation Code, is amended by adding Section 545.425 to read as follows:

    (a) An operator may not use a telephone while operating a motor vehicle unless:
        (1) the vehicle is stopped; or
        (2) the telephone is used without use of either of the operator’s hands.
    (b) An offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $25 or more than $100.

SECTION 2. This Act takes effect September 1, 2003.

However, this bill has not been enacted as law. It was sent to committee in March 2003 and was never passed or voted upon. Moreover, since the regular session of the Texas legislature has since ended, this bill would have to be resubmitted (and passed) during the next regular session in order to become law.

Some people have become misled through reading Section 2 of the bill, which states “This Act takes effect September 1, 2003,” and therefore mistakenly believe this legislation will be in force as of that date. The provision for a September 1 effective date only applied if HB 281 was passed by the Texas legislature. Since this bill never passed, the September 1 effective date does not apply. Texas drivers may continue to use cell phones in their cars for the forseeable future.

Last updated:   4 December 2007


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