As often as we're all on the road, it's a safe assumption you've seen El Pasoans do some crazy, unbelievable stuff behind the wheel. Many times it is because that person is staring down at their smart phone.

Every month, the El Paso Police Department focuses on a specific traffic law they make a concerted effort to enforce. This month, April 2022, the department’s Traffic Unit will be keeping an eye out for those tapping out a text or reading one when their eyes should be on the road.

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Through the end of the month traffic cops will be on the lookout for driver’s texting, reading messages, or sending electronic messages while operating the vehicle.

How the Law Reads

Using,A,Phone,In,A,Car,Texting,While,Driving,Concept
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Per Texas Transportation Code Section 545.4251, which is the specific law the EPPD social media post references:

’Electronic message’ means data that is read from or entered into a wireless communication device for the purpose of communicating with another person.

In plain English, that means you’re breaking the law if a cop catches you using your smart phone to read, write, or send a text or email unless the vehicle is stopped.

What’s not made clear is does being stopped at a red light count?

Personally, I think if you’re not pulled over to the side of the road you should get busted. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been behind someone clearly reading or sending a text who is clueless the light changed and I end up having to sit through the light cycle a second time. Aargh!

How Much It Will Cost You

A first offense carries a fine between $25 and $99, and the second between $100 and $200.

Defenses Available

Now, you can get out of a ticket if:

• you are using a hands-free device, including voice-operated technology;
• you are reporting illegal activity or calling for emergency help;
• you are reading a message you reasonably believe is related to an emergency; or
• you are relaying information to a dispatcher or digital network through a device affixed to the vehicle that is part of the driver’s job.

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