Waco: Officers prepare for Texas texting while driving ban
Law enforcement officers face a learning curve on the ban on texting while driving that goes into effect on Sept. 1 in Texas.
"Education is a very vital part of the new law changes not just for law enforcement, but for the public too," said Dennis Stapleton, director of McLennan Community College's Law Enforcement Academy.
Stapleton said enforcing the new law is challenging, and something instructors are working to address as they prepare training courses.
Under the new law, an officer can pull over a driver for texting, but there are certain defenses such as using a phone’s GPS navigation system, making an emergency call or using the phone for something other than texting.
"I anticipate that when we make stops people are going to use those defenses. Then it's our word against theirs, and so if a citation is contested what doyou do then," he said.
The law prohibits officers from taking possession or inspecting an alleged violator's phone, unless authorized by the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Penal Code, or other law, he said.
"From a law enforcement standpoint it certainly isn't the bill we had hoped for because there's not as many abilities for us to properly address texting," Stapleton said.
First time offenders can be fined from $25 to $99, and fines range from $100 to $200 for repeat violations.
Offenders who cause seriously bodily harm or death to someone else while texting and driving could be charged with a class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by as much as a year in jail and a fine of as much as $4,000.
Stapleton said once officers have been trained it is up to the individual agencies to decide how they want to address the law.