Law banning distracted driving goes into effect Sept. 1

Beginning this Friday, anyone caught distracted while driving could be paying a fine.

The state’s new law that makes it illegal to text, use social media or surf the web on a handheld device while behind the wheel is going into effect September 1.

Under the new law, drivers can still use GPS or music apps but can't send, read or write any electronic messages while driving.

Police say there's no grace period so their officers can immediately start enforcing the law. Repeat offenders could face fines up to $200.                      

Kathy Bond has been pushing for tougher laws on those who text and drive ever since she lost her daughter, Katrina. The 22-year-old was killed in an accident where the driver responsible was believed to be reading a text when he rear ended her.

“The guy didn't get arrested, didn't get a ticket, and didn’t get any punishment whatsoever. And that was devastating for us,” Bond said. “To pick up a phone and you see people Snapchatting or on Facebook, I don't think they realize within seconds they can ruin a whole family's life.”

Bond got involved with organizations like Stop Distractions to convince state lawmakers to pass the law going into effect Friday.

“I had to take that pain and do something with it — going down to Austin numerous times, talking to everybody, talking to reporters,” she said. “At least I felt like I was doing something for her.”

Garland Police Lt. Pedro Barineau says texting while driving is a crime officers can easily spot.

“We could pull up next to them, and they're actually looking down at their phone and texting and typing away on their phone,” he said. “It's obvious. People see it all the time.”

With the new law, first-time offenders can face fines up to $99 dollars. Repeat offenders could pay up to $200 dollars if they're caught texting while the car is in motion.

Whether or not the driver was actually in texting or using GPS or music which is allowed will come down to what evidence comes out in court.

“We can't make someone give us their phone. It's a class A misdemeanor,” Barineau said. “It is going to be an issue when it comes to court because of the fact that if the officer can’t see the phone all we have is what we see and observe.”

While Bond wishes the current law was tougher and outlawed things like using GPS, she says this is a start.

“I do feel like Katrina is smiling and saying, ‘Good for you, mom. I'm glad you did something,’” Bond said.

As with any other crime, drivers can plead their case in court. But police say they can also use dash cam and body camera video as evidence against a driver believed to be texting.

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