Can I Text at a Stoplight?

By now, you probably know that it is illegal to text while driving in addition to being simply dangerous and irresponsible. But once you pull to a stop, usually at a stoplight, is it legal to go ahead and whip out your phone for a quick message? After all, if you aren’t able to use your phone while driving how can you respond quickly to messages or check for important updates about where you are going? Find out if texting at a stoplight is still considered texting while driving.

Distracted Driving Laws Vary by State

Texting while driving is illegal under the grounds that it is distracted driving. In some states, texting while driving is prohibited under this general law. In Austin, there is a specific ordinance enacted by lawmakers to strictly prohibit texting while driving. Though it is not a state law, the practice has been adopted by most major cities in Texas.

Texting at Stoplight May Be Legal, or a Legal Gray Area

While it is clear that texting while driving is illegal, the laws on texting while stopped at a stoplight are slightly trickier and this may not be considered while driving for the purposes of the distracted driving laws. Florida has a specific law that states that motor vehicles stationed at lights that are stopped are not being operated and are thus not subject to the texting while driving ban. This exclusion allows texting while stopped at red lights, in traffic jams, or to report criminal activity. California treats the law completely differently, stating that it is not acceptable to check email or read text messages while at stoplights or in bumper to bumper traffic. The California law specifies that a person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a phone unless it is hands free, and this definition applies to drivers even when they are stopped.

Even in areas that have stoplight loopholes and do not restrict texting while driving if stopped, any time you are distracted by your phone and cause a distraction to other drivers or impede normal traffic you can be cited for distracted or even reckless driving. So if you cause a dangerous condition to other drivers, even by not moving forward on a green light, you can be charged if an officer sees you or if an accident results.

The best bet legally and for safety options is to go phoneless when at a light or any time you drive. If you are the operator of a vehicle you will want to avoid checking your personal devices whether moving or otherwise stopped. Call our offices if you have any other questions regarding texting while driving laws and how to avoid being ticketed for this behavior. Our Austin car accident attorneys offer free consultations.