Texas law enforcement agencies have been cracking down on smartphone use by police.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has announced new smartphone use restrictions for drivers.
The new law, enacted on December 6, 2016, states that a driver who does not hold a smartphone in their hand is guilty of a Class D felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
The state also has implemented new rules that limit the time a driver can be stopped on a Texas road, including for using their phone while driving.
The DPS has also expanded its smartphone use enforcement, requiring drivers to present their phones when they stop to get a warrant.
“DPS is committed to making our communities safer by keeping drivers informed of law enforcement’s presence and to deter distracted driving, and to keeping our citizens safe on the roads by enforcing the law,” DPS Director Mike Manley said in a statement.
“The new Texas law provides a strong deterrent to distracted driving and we are excited to implement new tools to help ensure that all Texans are safe while using their smartphones while driving.”
The DPS says it has implemented a new rule requiring drivers who do not have a phone within their hands to present a valid license or insurance card in their hands when they pull over to get the warrant, which is now a mandatory requirement.
“Any driver who has an outstanding warrant on their vehicle must present a phone to get their vehicle impounded,” DPS said in the statement.
Under the new rules, the DPS says a driver with a warrant issued on December 5, 2017, will now have a “priority to pull over” to get it, even if they do not hold it in their lap or hands.
The department also said that drivers will no longer be able to use a smartphone while driving unless they have a warrant for their license or are present in a location where the phone can be easily accessed.
The change comes after several cases where drivers who had their phones confiscated for speeding or other crimes were allowed to keep their phones for a day, and even longer for “good cause”.
A driver who was ticketed for not having a smartphone within their hand on December 2, 2017 was allowed to retain their phone for 24 hours to keep it from being confiscated by law enforcement.
Drivers with a valid driver’s license can now keep their phone in their glove compartment and it can be turned off at any time, the statement said.
Drivers who are found using their phones while driving face up to a $1,000 fine.
“This change will also protect the safety of the public by ensuring that drivers are not distracted while driving,” DPS Assistant Chief Randy Smith said in an email.
The rules also say drivers must remain alert and follow the rules of the road.
Drivers are also required to display their license on their dash or shoulder, and be present when the police officer asks for identification.
“No phone or device, including a smartphone, should be allowed to remain within the passenger area of a vehicle,” the statement added.
“A smartphone is not an object and cannot be used for a purpose other than that of a personal computer, tablet, or other device.”