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by Jeff Rasansky - August 31, 2017
Jeff Rasansky
Jeff Rasansky, managing partner of Rasansky Law Firm, is an aggressive Dallas personal injury lawyer with more than 25 years of legal experience.

As of September 1st, 2017, texting and driving is illegal in Texas!

Governor Greg Abbott announced on June 6th that he’s signed House Bill 62 into law, making Texas the 47th state to officially ban the dangerous practice of texting while driving. At least 45 cities have also enacted hands-free ordinances.

Beginning on Friday September 1st, texting while driving within the state of Texas will be punishable by a fine of $25-99 for first-time offenders, and $100-200 for repeat offenders (though no points will be assigned). The new law also states that if an accident caused by texting and driving results in the death or serious bodily injury of another person, they 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/punishments).

Texas Texting and Driving Laws

It’s important to note that this new law only addresses “reading, writing, or sending electronic messages” via a “wireless communication device.” It is still legal for motorists in most cities to use their phone for GPS navigation, music apps, dialing phone numbers, etc., but drivers may still get pulled over if an officer suspects them of texting.

While the law includes a provision to preempt local texting-and-driving ordinances which already existed in over 100 cities, it does not address stricter cell phone bans (i.e., hands-free laws) put in place by at least 45 other Texas cities such as Austin, San Antonio, Denton, and El Paso (see full list).

Following the passage of this new law, Gov. Abbott had asked lawmakers to meet in a special session in order to enact broader legislation which would roll back any city ordinances that ban mobile phone use beyond texting while driving. Ultimately, no vote was cast before the special session concluded, meaning cities are still free to pass (and enforce) hands-free laws within their city limits.

Additionally, Texas forbids drivers from using hand-held communication devices (phones) in school zones, and Texas law states that school bus drivers and all drivers under 18 must refrain from texting or making telephone calls while driving—even with a hands-free device (see more).

Why did it take Texas so long to ban texting and driving?

Well, Texas has actually tried to pass a ban on texting while driving at least four times now, but it was only signed into law on its most-recent attempt.

  • Back in 2011, the Texas Legislature was successful in passing a statewide ban. Unfortunately (and despite overwhelming public support), it was vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry.
  • Again in 2013, a similar bill was passed with wide bipartisan support, but it died after the Senate Transportation Committee refused to allow a vote on the bill.
  • In 2015, another bill aimed at banning texting and driving (House Bill 80) was introduced. The bill (which was approved by the Texas House panel) would have prohibited the use of portable wireless technology while operating a motor vehicle within the state, but was ultimately defeated in the Senate before becoming law.
  • In May of 2017, however, another bill aimed at banning texting and driving statewide (HB 62) did pass the Senate and was signed into law by Governor Abbott.

Do we really need a law to stop drivers from texting and driving?

In 2014 alone, 3,179 people in the U.S. were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers, and an additional 431,000 were injured. In 2016, there were 109,658 traffic crashes in Texas alone that involved distracted driving, leading to over 3,000 serious injuries and at least 455 fatalities. The sobering truth is that texting while driving makes a car accident 23 times more likely to occur.

While we can debate the effectiveness and enforceability of these distracted driving laws, these same arguments can be (and were) made with regard to seat belt laws emerging in the 1960s. Just because something is difficult to enforce, that doesn’t mean we should ignore the issue.

We all know that using a cell phone while driving is incredibly dangerous, and as such, at least 45 Texas cities have gone above and beyond by enacting more-strict hands-free ordinances within their jurisdictions. These cities include: Alice, Amarillo, Anthony, Aransas Pass, Argyle, Austin, Bedford, Bee Cave, Boerne, Buda, Corpus Christi, Deer Park, Denton, El Paso, Floresville, Garden Ridge, Hill Country Village, Hurst, Kingsville, Kyle, Lake Dallas, Lake Tanglewood, Lakeway, Laredo, Liberty Hill, Little Elm, Midlothian, Mont Belvieu, New Braunfels, Port Aransas, Rollingwood, San Antonio, San Juan, San Marcos, Schertz, Sinton, Socorro, Sunset Valley, University City, Watauga, West Lake Hills, Wichita Falls, and Wimberley.


Texas cities which ban handheld phone use while driving.


Alice, Texas

Alice City Council passed a Hands-free ordinance (Ord. No. 1972) which was enacted in April 2014.

The law bans the hand-held use of electronic communication devices while operating a vehicle, although hands-free devices are allowed. Drivers of government vehicles can use a cell phone “in their official capacity,” and drivers can still use mobile devices for GPS purposes or to make an emergency call.

Offending drivers could face a penalty of up to $200.


Amarillo, Texas

The city adopted a hands-free ordinance in September 2012 which was enacted on January 3rd, 2013.

The law prohibits the use of handheld cell phones while driving (even while stopped in traffic) within the Amarillo city limits. Hands-free devices are allowed. Drivers of government vehicles can use a cell phone when “acting in official capacity with an immediate need to give or receive necessary official information,” and drivers can still use mobile devices for making an emergency call.

Violators could face a fine of up to $200 plus court costs. The offense is not considered a moving violation and may not be made a part of a person’s driving record or insurance record.


Anthony, Texas

In 2015, the city of Anthony, Texas adopted a hands-free ordinance (2015-502) prohibiting the use of a hand-held mobile communication device to engage in a call, send/read/write a text message, or engage in any other use of the device while operating a motor vehicle within the limits of Anthony. Calls using hands-free devices are permitted, as are GPS units affixed to the vehicle.

Drivers can be fined up to $200 for violating this ordinance.


Aransas Pass, Texas

City Council approved the hands-free ordinance (Ord. No. 4058) in December 2013.

Ordinance prohibits the use of any wireless communication device by operators of motor vehicles within the city limits. The use of wireless communication devices that are affixed to the vehicle (and/or used as a global positioning or navigation system) is permissible. The use of a hands-free device is also allowed.

The ordinance does not apply while driving on private property. Drivers of authorized emergency vehicles can use a cell phone while “acting in an official capacity.”

A violation is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500.


Argyle, Texas

A hands-free ordnance was adopted in November 2015, and full enforcement begins May 1st, 2016.

The ordinance bans the sue of any hand-held electronic devices while driving (including texting, making calls, viewing websites, GPS, gaming, or even holding the device in your hand). Hands-free devices using Bluetooth and/or headsets will still be permissible.

Offending drivers could face citations up to $200.


Austin, Texas

In addition to Austin’s texting-while-driving ban passed in 2009, a city-wide hands-free ordinance was passed in August 2014 and went into effect on January 1st, 2015.

As defined in ordinance No. 20140828-041 (hands-free ordinance), it is unlawful to use portable electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle or bicycle within Austin city limits. Using a hands-free system such as Bluetooth, headphones, or an affixed GPS system is permissible. Unlike most other cities, Austin does permit drivers to use their devices while stopped at a red light.

Violations are classified as a class C misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $500.

Note: The Public Safety Commission recently recommended three different amendments to the city’s existing hands-free law. The amendments (if passed) would make it illegal for drivers to use their phone during a stop light, to wear headphones that cover the ear (with the exception of earbuds), or for passengers to use a phone to take photos while the car is in motion (including back seat passengers). We will update this page if/when these proposals are approved.


Bedford, Texas

On November 18th, 2014, City Council voted unanimously to adopt a hands-free ordinance (Ord. No. 14-3109) that makes it a Class C misdemeanor to use handheld devices to read, write or send text messages or emails (or access the internet) while operating a vehicle. Affixed GPS devices and hands-free devices are still allowed.

Violating the ordinance carries a $200 fine.


Bee Cave, Texas

Passed in April of 2015, Bee Cave began enforcing their hands-free ordinance (Ordinance No. 241) on July 1st, 2015.

The ordinance prohibits the use of hand-held mobile communication devices while operating a motor vehicle or bicycle within city limits. The ordinance does not apply to drivers and cyclists using hands-free technology (such as Bluetooth) and/or mounted devices.

If convicted, offenders shall be fined no more than $100 for a first offense. Additional convictions carry fines of up to $500.


Boerne, Texas

Beginning January 1st 2016, the city of Boerne began enforcing a strict hands-free ordinance (Ord. No. 2015-41). Basically, an operator of a motor vehicle may not use a portable electronic device while the vehicle is in motion (or even stopped in the roadway). This includes phones, tablets, gaming devices, and even GPS units.

While not considered a moving a violation, a person convicted of this offense could receive a fine of $200.


Buda, Texas

Buda voted 6-0 in favor of a hands-free ordinance (Ord. No. 2015-08) in July of 2015, and began fully enforcing the new law in September of 2015.

The ordinance prohibits the use of hand-held mobile communication devices while operating a motor vehicle or bicycle within city limits. The ordinance does not apply to drivers and cyclists using hands-free technology (such as Bluetooth), the use of affixed GPS units, or to drivers in stopped vehicles.

A Class C misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by a fine of $500 or less.


College Station, Texas

On August 11th, 2016, the College Station City Council voted 6-1 in favor of banning the use of nearly all hand-held cellphones and other wireless communication devices while driving within city limits. Police began enforcing this new ordinance on November 9th, 2016.

Hands-free devices will be permitted under the new rules (which also apply to cyclists), and drivers are still permitted to use affixed GPS units. Drivers are also permitted to use hand-held communication devices while at a complete stop. Fines for violating this ordinance will range from $25 to $200.

NOTE: On Monday, September 11th, 2017, the College Station City Council voted to repeal the city’s hands-free ordinance, citing the passage of the new statewide ban on texting and driving (even though the new state law changes nothing in regard to how College Station’s hands-free ordinance would be enforced). The city ordinance was officially repealed on Monday, September 25th, 2017.


Corpus Christi, Texas

hands-free city ordinance (Ord. No. 53-16) went into effect in October of 2015.

The law states that “an operator of a motor vehicle may not use a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle within the city limits.” This does not apply to hands-free devices or affixed GPS devices, nor does it apply while the vehicle is parked (not simply stopped), while on private property.

Punishable by a fine of up to $500.


Deer Park, Texas

City Council unanimously approved a hands-free ordinance in July of 2015 which prevents the use of cell phones and other wireless devices while driving within city limits.

Hands-free devices, such as Bluetooth, are still allowed. The ordinance doesn’t apply to drivers who are legally parked, or on school property.

Violators are subject to a Class C misdemeanor, and a fine of up to $200.


Denton, Texas

On December 6th, 2016, Denton City Council voted 6-1 in favor of approving a hands-free ordinance (No. 2016-394), which states that “an operator of a vehicle may not use a wireless communication device for any purpose while operating a vehicle on any street or highway within the city of Denton.”

The ordinance—which goes into effect on June 1st, 2017—does have a few caveats. Hands-free use is still allowed, as is hands-on use of a GPS device. Drivers may still use their cell phones to obtain emergency services, to report an emergency, or to prevent a crime about to be committed. Drivers who are stopped and off of the roadway can use their phones, but not when stopped in traffic or at a red light.

Those ticketed for violating this ordinance will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, with a fine not to exceed $200.


El Paso, Texas

El Paso passed a hands-free city ordinance (017286) prohibiting the use of cellular phones while operating a vehicle. The ban took effect April 1st, 2010, and enforcement began in May of 2010.

Drivers may not use a hand-held wireless communication device unless stopped and off of the roadway. Drivers are allowed to make and receive calls if the device is integrated with (or attached to) the vehicle, and all wireless devices must be used solely in “voice-activated” or “hands-free” mode while driving.

Fines for operating a motor vehicle while using a cell phone in El Paso are $116 per offense.


Floresville, Texas

As of November 2015, Floresville has adopted an ordinance (Ord. No. 2015-031) that bans the use of hand-held mobile communication devices while operating a moving motor vehicle. Similar to ordinances in other cities, the law allows for an “affirmative defense” for talking on a cell phone during emergency situations.

Violators can be fined up to $200.


Garden Ridge, Texas

In September 2015, Garden Ridge city council passed an ordinance (Ordinance No. 184-092015) banning the hand-held use of a phone while driving. According to the language of the ordinance, “a person commits an offense if the person uses a hand-held mobile communication device to (1) engage in a call, (2) send, read, or write a text message, (3) view pictures or written text whether transmitted by internet or other electronic means, (4) engage in gaming, or (5) engage in any other use of the device while operating a motor vehicle.” Hands-free phone calls are still permissable, as is the use of an affixed GPS navagation unit.

A voilation is a class C misdemeanor (not a moving violation) with fines not to exceed $200.


Hill Country Village, Texas

Hill Country Village has enacted a hands-free ordinance within city limits. According to the Hill Country Village municipal code (section 70-1), it is now illegal to use a hand-held communication device to engage in a call; send, read or write a text message; view pictures or written text whether transmitted by internet or other electronic means; engage in gaming; or engage in any other use of the device while operating a moving motor vehicle (except activating or deactivating the device).

There are a few affirmative defenses to this law, such as using a hands-free device, operating an affixed GPS unit, reporting illegal activity to the police, communicating with first responders, or when attempting to prevent injury to a person or property.

A person convicted of an offense under this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than $200.


Hurst, Texas

The city of Hurst passed a hands-free ordinance (ordinance 2321) in July of 2016, which outlaws the handheld use of electronic devices while driving. Enforcement will begin in late October of 2016.

Drivers are still permitted to make calls and use GPS, but only in hands-free mode.

Those ticketed for violating this ordinance will face a fine of up to $500.


Kingsville, Texas

In 2014, Kingsville city council enacted an ordinance banning the use of hand-held communication devices while driving. Section 7-9-2 of the Kingsville municipal code states that “an operator of a motor vehicle may not use a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle within the city limits.” The law does not apply to those using hands-free devices, to fixed GPS units, or when making a valid emergency call.

A violation of this ordinance is a Class C misdemeanor.


Kyle, Texas

On September 1st, 2015, the Kyle City Council unanimously passed (7-0) a hands-free ordinance within the city of Kyle, and began issuing tickets in November of 2015.

The ordinance prohibits the use of hand-held mobile communication devices while operating a motor vehicle or bicycle within city limits. The ordinance does not apply to drivers on private property, drivers who are legally parked, or to emergency officials or law enforcement officers. The use of hands-free technology (such as Bluetooth) is allowed, the use of affixed GPS units, or to drivers in stopped vehicles.

The fine for a 1st offense is between $100 and $500. A second offense could cost you between $200 and $500. A third offense will result in a $500 fine.


Lake Dallas, Texas

On February 23rd, 2016, Lake Dallas City Council approved an ordinance banning the use of hand-held communication devices while driving within city limits.

According to the ordinance, it’s now unlawful for a person to use a wireless communication device (e.g. mobile phone) to engage in a call or to view/send/create an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle on a public street or highway within the city. A driver holding a wireless communication device to or in proximity of one’s ear while driving is presumed to be engaging in a call, which is banned. Those using hands-free communication options (speaker phone, Bluetooth) will not be cited.

A violation could result in a fine of no more than $500.


Lake Tanglewood, Texas

According to section 12.02.002 of the Lake Tanglewood municipal code, the use of a wireless communication device for any purpose other than oral communication (and by any person other than the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle or public utility service vehicle) while driving within the limits of the village is prohibited unless the vehicle is stopped. This ordinance applies to all vehicles, including golf carts.


Lakeway, Texas

City Council approved a hands-free ordinance (Ord. No 2015-04-20-05) on April 20th, 2015.

The ordinance prohibits drivers and bicyclists from using handheld wireless devices unless parked (not just stopped). The use of hands-free devices is permitted.

First offenses shall not exceed $100, and additional convictions carry fines of up to $500.


Laredo, Texas

Laredo City Council passed a hands-free ordinance (Ordinance No. 2015-O-135) in November of 2015. Enforcement began in February of 2016.

The ordinance states that it’s illegal for motorists to operate a motor vehicle while using a hand-held wireless communication device for engaging in a call, texting, sending or receiving texts, taking or viewing pictures, gaming or any other purposes.

Offenses are punishable by fines of up to $200.


Liberty Hill, Texas

On February 23rd, 2015, Liberty Hill passed a law (Ordinance No. 15-O-05) banning hand-held phone use while driving. The law states that a driver of a motor vehicle may not use a wireless communication device (including GPS) in any fashion while the motor vehicle is in motion. Drivers are still permitted to use hands-free devices.

The ordinance also prohibits bus drivers with minor passengers from using a mobile communication device unless the vehicle is stopped (federal law only prohibits bus drivers from texting and driving).

A violation under this section is a misdemeanor, and is punishable by a fine of not more than $200.


Little Elm, Texas

In January of 2016, the Little Elm Town Council voted 6-0 to ban the use of hand-held wireless devices while driving. Enforcement is set to begin March 1st, 2016.

It is now illegal for drivers to call, read or write text messages, take pictures, use apps, play games, or visit websites (or even just hold the device) while driving. Drivers may still use hands-free wireless devices for phone calls and GPS navigation.

First-time violators can be ticketed and fined $250. A third violation could cost you up to $500.


Midlothian, Texas

As of May 2016, hand-held cell phone use while driving is illegal in Midlothian after the passage of Ordinance 2016-12. The new law prohibits the use of a hand-held wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle to engage in a call, send, read or write a text message, take or view pictures or written text, access or view an internet website or software application, play a game, or any other use of the device while operating a motor vehicle, including simply holding the device.

Each offense, upon conviction, is punishable by a fine not to exceed $500.


Mont Belvieu, Texas

In September of 2016, the city of Mont Belvieu banned the handheld use of phones while driving by a unanimous vote. Ordinance no. 2016-016 states that it shall be unlawful for a motor vehicle operator to use a wireless communication device (e.g., phone) while operating a motor vehicle on a public roadway or on school property within the territorial limits of the City of Mont Belvieu, unless (1) being used with a hands-free device, (2) the device is affixed to the vehicle and being used as a GPS system, (3) the vehicle is parked or on private property. Hand-held emergency calls are still permitted.

The ordinance will not be enforced until March 12th, 2017. Those who break this law are subject to a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $200.


New Braunfels, Texas

In August of 2015, City Council voted 4-3 to approve one of the toughest hands-free laws (Ordinance 2015-41) in the state, banning the use of cell phones and other electronic devices while driving.

The new law bans the use of texting, e-mail, and talking on a hand held phone while driving. It also bans the use of electronic devices such as e-book readers, iPods & MP3 music players, and cameras while a person is driving on a public road. The law does not apply on private property, or to affixed GPS devices. Hands-free phone calls are still allowed.

Fines start at $100 and can go as high as $500 for a 3rd violation.


Port Aransas, Texas

On January 21st, 2016, the Port Aransas City Council voted to enact a hands-free ordinance which banned all use of handheld “electronic communication devices” while driving.

Violations could result in a class C misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500.


Rollingwood, Texas

On March 6th, 2017, Rollingwood City Council approved a hands-free ordinance (Ord. No. 2017-03-06) banning the use of handheld electronic devices while driving and bicycling. Drivers are prohibited from using a hand-held mobile device such as a phone, gaming device, or tablet while motor vehicle operators are in motion on public roads. Drivers are still permitted to use mobile devices while stopped at a stop light.

Those who violate the new Rollingwood hands-free ordinance can face a fine of up to $500.


San Antonio, Texas

A hands-free ordinance (2010-10-07-0853) was passed unanimously in November 2014 and enacted in February of 2015.

Ordinance prohibits any use of hand-held devices on the road, requiring motorists to use Bluetooth, car speakers or other hands-free methods to talk on the phone. Drivers may still use hands to activate or deactivate a call, but cannot hold the phone while talking (even if on speaker phone).

The city ordinance does not apply to the incorporated suburbs (Alamo Heights, Shavano Park, etc).

Maximum fine is $200.


San Juan, Texas

On December 10th, 2015, the city of San Juan banned the use of portable electronic devices while driving (Ordinance No. 15-24). According to the law, an operator of a motor vehicle may not use a portable electronic device while the vehicle is in motion. This ordinance applies to motorized vehicles AND nonmotorized vehicles (e.g., bicycles). Hands-free devices are allowed, as is the use of an affixed GPS unit.

A person convicted of violating this ordinance shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $200 per violation.


San Marcos, Texas

The San Marcos City Council voted in November of 2015 to adopt a hands-free ordinance (Ord. No. 2015-50) which went into effect on February 1st, 2016.

The ordinance prohibits drivers from using or even holding a handheld wireless device (cell phone) while driving. Drivers will still be able to use Bluetooth, earphones, or other hands-free methods to answer calls, and can still use an affixed GPS unit. Unlike many other cities, San Marcos’ hands-free law only applies to cars in motion. This means that it is still permissible for a driver to use their phone while stopped at a red light.

Drivers could be fined up to $100 for the first offense, $250 for a second offense, and up to $500 for a third.


Schertz, Texas

City Council voted 3-2 to adopt hands-free ordinance (Ord. 15-D-16) in June of 2015.

The ordinance prohibits drivers from using handheld wireless devices to make calls, text, view or take photos, or play games while driving. Drivers will be able to use mobile phones to make hands-free calls or for GPS navigation (if the device is affixed to the vehicle).

Drivers could be fined $200 for each offense.


Sinton, Texas

Sinton City Council members voted in 2014 to enact a hands-free ordinance (Ord. No. 2014-02) in the city.

The ordinance states that “an operator of a motor vehicle may not use a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle within the city limits.” Hands-free devices are permissible for making and receiving phone calls, as is the use of affixed GPS units.

Maximum fine per violation is $500.


Socorro, Texas

Socorro city council passed ordinance no. 343 in August of 2014, which effectively banned hand-held phone use while driving within city limits. According to section 42.201 of the municipal code, an operator of a motor vehicle may not use a hand-held wireless communication device while the vehicle is in motion. Hands-free devices are permitted, as is the use of an affixed GPS unit.

A person who violates this ordinance commits an offense punishable by a fine of $80 (which is much lower than in other cities).


Sugar Land, Texas

On February 21st, 2017, Sugar Land city council passed a hands-free ordinance (No. 2080) by a 5-2 vote, which prohibits the use of portable electronic devices (phones, tablets, gaming systems, etc.) while driving a vehicle within city limits, unless the device is in hands-free mode (or being used for an emergency). Unlike most other cities, drivers in Sugar Land are permitted to pick up the phone at a stop light or a stop sign, but not while the vehicle is in motion.

This ordinance went into effect on March 20th, 2017, and police say they will only issue warnings for the first 90 days. Violating this ordinance could result in a fine of up to $500.

NOTE: On Tuesday, September 5th, 2017, the Sugar Land City Council voted 5-0 to approve the first reading to repeal the city’s ordinance outlawing the hand-held use of mobile devices while driving. Sugar Land’s Assistant Chief of Police Scott Schultz told council members that the new statewide texting ban would make it difficult for officers to enforce the city’s hands-free ordinance, even though (as far as we can tell) the new state law changes nothing in regard to how a hands-free ordinance would be enforced. Regardless, city council officially repealed the local ordinance on Tuesday, September 19th, 2017.


Sunset Valley, Texas

Sunset Valley city council passed ordinance no. 160621 on June 27th, 2016, effectively making hand-held phone use while driving illegal. According to Chapter 99 of the Sunset Valley municipal code, a person commits an offense if, while operating a vehicle on a public roadway, the person uses a hand-held mobile communication device to either engage in a call; send, read, or write a text message; view pictures or written text whether transmitted by internet or other electronic means; engage in gaming; or engage in any other use of the device.

As with most hands-free ordinances, drivers are permitted to make and receive calls via a hands-free device such as a headset or Bluetooth. A person convicted of an offense under this chapter shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500.


Universal City, Texas

Universal City has enacted a hands-free in its 6.2-square-mile jurisdiction, and began enforcing the new law (Ord. No. 603) in October of 2010.

An operator of a motor vehicle may not use a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle in the city limits of Universal City, Texas. The ban applies to portable (non-affixed) GPS units as well. The ordinance does make an exception for use of “hands-free” devices.

A violation is a Class C misdemeanor and carries a fine of up to $200.


Watauga, Texas

On November 6th, 2015, Watauga city council passed a hands-free ordinance (Ordinance No. 1611), prohibiting the hand-held use of phones and other wireless communication devices while operating a motor vehicle.

An operator of a motor vehicle may not touch a wireless communication device (phone, tablet, gaming system, etc.) while operating a motor vehicle in the city limits of Watauga, unless the vehicle is at a complete stop. The ordinance does make an exception for use of “hands-free” devices such as bluetooth, but only if it remains hands free.


West Lake Hills, Texas

On March 26th, 2016, West Lake Hills City Council unanimously passed an ordinance (Ord. No. 424) outlawing the use of handheld electronic devices while driving—even when stopped at a red light. Drivers are only permitted to use their phones or other electronic devices in conjunction with a hands-free device such as bluetooth.

The law goes into effect on April 6th, 2016, and police will begin ticketing on June 1st.

Fines for breaking the ordinance can reach $250.


Wichita Falls, Texas

On February 21st, 2017, the city of Wichita Falls unanimously passed an ordinance banning the handheld use of phones while driving. The ordinance states that an operator of a motor vehicle may not use a wireless communication device for any purpose while operating a vehicle on any street or highway within the City of Wichita Falls, unless employing a hands-free device.

Enforcement will begin on March 27th, 2017, and violations could result in a fine of $195 (and potentially up to $500).


Wimberley, Texas

In March of 2015, Wimberley City Council passed a hands-free ordinance (Ord. No. 2015-006) prohibiting the use of portable electronic devices while operating a vehicle. Police began enforcement in June of 2015.

Drivers may not use or touch a handheld wireless communication device (phone, tablet, computer, gaming device, etc) while operating a vehicle (including bicycles) on city streets and/or highways. Drivers are allowed to make and receive calls if the device fully hands-free, or if the vehicle is at a complete stop. Drivers may also use GPS, but only if the device is affixed to the vehicle.



Did we miss any other Texas cities with distracted driving laws? Did your town recently pass a similar law? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

  1. March 1, 2016

    Watauga has enacted a hands-free only policy within the city. Effective March 6, 2016.

    • March 1, 2016

      Thanks, Jimmie! List updated!

  2. September 15, 2016

    I can almost see ban on Texting while driving because common sense is no so common anymore just look who our president is and the socialist on the DemocRats has chosen to lead their party.

    However, a cell phone man is just crazy, and I’m looking for it to be challenge in court as a 1st and possible a 5th amendment violation.

  3. January 5, 2017

    I want to do whatever it takes to ban hand-held phone use while driving within city limits in Lubbock, TX. I just know how to get started. Can someone give some advice on how to start?

    • January 6, 2017

      Hi Mario, your best bet is to reach out to the Lubbock City Council (https://www.ci.lubbock.tx.us/city-council). Express your concerns and ask for a public hearing on the matter. Love that you’re looking to take action!

  4. February 22, 2017

    Wichita County enacted hands free yesterday. Effective March 21st,

  5. March 8, 2017

    Hi there Mr. Staff, I was wondering if you could send me an updated list of all the Texas cities that have band handheld devices in any sort of way for 2017. Please and thank you.

    • March 8, 2017

      Hi Mario. The list on this page is actually up to date!

      Full list as of today: Alamo, Alice, Amarillo, Angleton, Anthony, Aransas Pass, Argyle, Arlington, Austin, Balcones Heights, Bedford, Bee Cave, Bellaire, Big Lake, Boerne, Brazoria, Brownsville, Buda, Canyon, Castle Hills, College Station, Conroe, Converse, Corpus Christi, Deer Park, Denton, Edinburg, El Paso, Farmers Branch, Floresville, Fredericksburg, Galveston, Garden Ridge, Grand Prairie, Groesbeck, Harlingen, Helotes, Hereford, Hill Country Village, Hurst, Jacksonville, Kingsville, Kyle, Laguna Vista, Lake Dallas, Lake Tanglewood, Lakeway, Laredo, Liberty Hill, Little Elm, Lockhart, Magnolia, Maypearl, McAllen, Meadowlakes, Midland, Midlothian, Mission, Missouri City, Mont Belvieu, Mount Pleasant, Mount Vernon, Nacogdoches, New Braunfels, Nolanville, Overton, Palmview, Pampa, Pecos, Penitas, Pharr, Port Aransas, Richwood, Rowlett, San Angelo, San Antonio, San Benito, San Juan, San Marcos, Schertz, Seagoville, Seguin, Selma, Shoreacres, Sinton, Snyder, Socorro, Stephenville, Sugar Land, Sunnyvale, Sunset Valley, Sweetwater, Tomball, University City, Watauga, West Lake Hills, West University Place, White Settlement, Wichita Falls, Wimberley, and Windcrest.

    • June 20, 2017

      Thank you, Heather! The page has been updated to include Rollingwood!

  6. July 11, 2017

    how about Victoria Texas and when it will be effective ?

    • July 11, 2017

      Victoria city council discussed a hands-free ordinance at their May 30, 2017 meeting, but I don’t believe an ordinance was ever passed (no mention of any such ordinance on http://www.victoriatx.org/government/city-council/city-council-ordinances/-folder-1527).

      According to Mayor Paul Polasek, “if state legislators don’t enact a ban soon, city council may then follow suit.” My assumption is that the discussion was tabled due to the pending statewide law, which did end up passing and goes into effect September 1st, 2017.

  7. August 9, 2017

    So this law will not apply to using GPS and searching and selecting music while driving?

    Also if someone was to use Siri/another AI and use their voice to send messages they will be violating the law? But someone who is typing in directions would be fine, even though that would be more distracting?

    • August 9, 2017

      Unfortunately, you’re likely correct. While the police can still cite you, the law states that “It is an affirmative defense to prosecution of an offense under this section that the operator used a portable wireless communication device: (1) in conjunction with a hands-free device; (2) to navigate using a global positioning system or navigation system… In fact, it only addresses “reading, writing, or sending electronic messages,” so under the current law, browsing your music or entering directions into GPS is not technically a violation (even though these tasks would be VERY unsafe while driving).

  8. August 31, 2017

    Does it also prohibit cell phone use, like making a phone call, unless it’s done hands-free?

    • August 31, 2017

      The new law (which goes into effect tonight at 12:01 a.m.) does not address making phone calls. It only prohibits “reading, writing, or sending electronic messages” via a “wireless communication device.” It’s important to remember, though, that at least 45 Texas cities do already have hands-free ordinances, and many more cities are considering doing the same.

  9. August 31, 2017

    Thank you for this excellent article. If you are pulled over when doing an allowable function, GPS, etc., how does that conversation go on the side of the road? Does the officer take your word for it? Will he ask to see your phone, and are you required to show it? I’m old(er) and was raised to be cooperative during a traffic stop.

    Thanks.

    • August 31, 2017

      Hi Wesley,
      We don’t actually practice criminal defense, so I’m probably not the best person to ask (but I’ll try). It’s my understanding that a police officer cannot force you to hand over your phone (although it may help prevent a ticket if you can show the officer what you WERE doing), nor do they have to take your word; it’s simply up to their judgment. If you receive a ticket, you can always contest the charge before a judge.

      Technically speaking, the police could subpoena your phone records if the case went to court, but due to the low fine amount, doing so would be completely impractical and very unlikely.

      • August 31, 2017

        Thanks for that. I haven’t been pulled over in 30+ years, so I’m “asking for a friend”.

  10. September 1, 2017

    How about Fort Worth?

    • September 1, 2017

      There are currently no local ordinances in Fort Worth which go beyond the statewide anti-texting-while-driving law.

  11. September 1, 2017

    Can you reach out to The Colony, Tx? The police dept doesn’t even know about the city rule. Friend is waiting on a call back from them. Thanks in advance. Chris

    • September 1, 2017

      Hi Christina,
      After some research, it doesn’t appear that The Colony has any local ordinances which go beyond the statewide ban on texting and driving. I did find a press release on the city’s website referring to the state law going into effect today (http://thecolonytx.gov/Documents/20170829TextingDrivingBan.pdf), but I’m not sure that’s helpful. Please let me know if I missed something!

  12. September 1, 2017

    What about browsing your Facebook or Instagram feed? An Instagram post isn’t a message directed at a person but one that’s put out in public much like an article on a website (unless a person is specifically tagged in the post). Commenting on the post would be sending a message back to a specific person though. How do you think it’ll be interpreted?

    • September 1, 2017

      It’s really up to the officer’s discretion, but the language of the law COULD be interpreted to cover browsing social media posts. The law says that a driver commits an offense “if the operator uses a portable wireless communication device to read, write, or send an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped.” An “electronic message” is defined as “data that is read from or entered into a wireless communication device for the purpose of communicating with another person.”

      It’s tough to say how this situation would be interpreted by the officer, but anyone who receives a citation has the opportunity to argue their case to a judge.

  13. September 2, 2017

    Is cellphone usage in Houston, TX still legal? It is not listed as one of the cities.

    • September 5, 2017

      While texting and driving is now illegal statewide, Houston does not yet have a hands-free ordinance (although a few Houston suburbs do).

  14. September 2, 2017

    Just to note, “distracted driving” encompasses a LOT more than just texting. (Any acvident caused by any distraction, your kids, the radio, smoking, adjusting the ac or heat, eating, drinking, looking for a street sign in an unfamiliar area, looking at the scenery,……….. gets lumped into that number.) Using that total number as evidence is misleading. I am NOT advocating for texting and driving. Just pointing out the manipulation of numbers to influence public opinion.

    Even accidents caused by an unknown reason get lumped in with distracted driving numbers. I know because my 19 year old daughter was killed in such an accident. They verified she was not texting and that the most likely scenario is that shefell to sleep allowing her car to drift into oncoming traffic in a blind curve. The cause of the accident was listed as “distracted driving” because they could not prove what actually happened.

    • September 5, 2017

      Distracted driving absolutely encompasses more than using a phone while driving. I would have preferred to use accident numbers related only to mobile phone usage, but unfortunately this information is not uniformly noted by law enforcement agencies across the state.

  15. September 3, 2017

    I didn’t see Dallas on the list.

    • September 5, 2017

      True. Dallas has not yet passed an ordinance which goes above texting and driving. Holding/using your phone while driving is still technically legal in Dallas (as long as you’re not texting and driving), but we strongly recommend against doing so.

  16. September 5, 2017

    How is “writing” being defined? is it the actual typing in the text or having the device create the text via oral input? Thanks

    • September 5, 2017

      Hi Carey,

      To the best of my knowledge, the term “writing” refers to manually typing. While that state defines electronic message as “data that is read from or entered into a wireless communication device for the purpose of communicating with another person,” the new law also states that it’s an affirmative defense (i.e., you can still get ticketed, but have the citation dismissed in court) if the driver “used a portable wireless communication device in conjunction with a hands-free device (i.e., oral input).

  17. September 7, 2017

    Why haven’t we banned eating while driving, reading newspapers while driving, putting makeup on while driving, dealing with kids while driving, changing radio stations while driving, etc. These laws are written by a bunch of idiots who are completely discriminating against a whole class of people and should be sued for this discrimination. This isn’t really making us safer, it is only taking away freedoms and making it more easy to do so as we become more and more numb to it. It is a media driven event to do this.

  18. September 8, 2017

    Does the new law banning texting include while being stopped at a stoplight or stop sign?

    • September 8, 2017

      According to the language of the law, drivers are prohibited from texting and driving while operating a motor vehicle “unless the vehicle is stopped.” Texting while at a red light may be technically allowed, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some officers are not aware of the exact language of the law.

  19. September 15, 2017

    Waco, Texas is not on the list

    • September 15, 2017

      That’s correct. Waco (nor any cities in McLennan County for that matter) currently have local ordinances on the books which go above and beyond the statewide ban on texting while driving.

  20. September 15, 2017

    Are police officers exempt from the Texaslaw

    • September 18, 2017

      The text of the laws states that it does not apply to “an operator of an authorized emergency or law enforcement vehicle using a portable wireless communication device while acting in an official capacity.”

  21. October 8, 2017

    Tomball Texas has a no cell phone use while driving

    • October 9, 2017

      While Tomball did pass an ordinance banning texting and driving in late 2010, it did not go above texting and driving (i.e., hands-free). As such, Texas’ new statewide law takes precedence over the city ordinance.

  22. October 20, 2017

    I need a specific clarification. If my phone rings while I am driving in Texas, may I legally answer it and hold it to my ear to talk?

    • October 20, 2017

      As long as you are NOT in one of the cities that has a hands-free ordinance on the books (listed on this page), answering your phone and holding it to your ear is perfectly legal in Texas.

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