ASK A COP — What are the hands-free requirements for cell phone and driving use?

Published 12:06 am Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Joseph asks: I’m a little confused with Texas’ hands free cellphone. I’ve been on my son to stay off the phone while driving. Now friends and family are recommending we install a speaker system in the vehicle because driving with the phone in your hand in Texas is now ILlEGAL. Is there another method or system you know that we can try before buying the speaker system for cellphone hands free driving?

Answer: The only place you are to be on a hands free cell in Texas is in a active SCHOOL ZONE. Other than that, the Texas Texting law allows for motorists to operate a motor vehicle with the cellphone in their hand while driving. Now, if you’re asking my opinion about driving with a cellphone in hand, I’d advise against that firmly! Many take for granted the dangerous risk they assume daily by driving and talking on cellphone, no matter if it’s handheld or hands free. Having a cellphone in your hand while driving isn’t much different, because 85 percent or greater of the motoring community only drives with one hand. So, where is the problem? It’s in the brain. We can only do one thing at a time with our conscious mind. Have you ever had two people talking to you at the same time? You may hear, but a lot of information will be missed. We only have ONE conscious mind, and that’s what we need in order to safely drive a motor vehicle. If we’re using the conscious mind to hold a conversation while driving, we start driving with our sub-conscious mind. Studies have proven driving and talking on a cellphone in hand or hand free is dangerous. Just put the cellphone down and drive is my suggestion.

Thomas asks: I tend to ride my motorcycle every chance I get when the weather is nice. Sometimes I’m stuck at a red light for quite a long time, often until a car pulls up behind me to trip the signal if it isn’t simply a timed light. I was told during a motorcycle course there was a law that would allow a motorcyclist to treat a red light like a stop sign in the event the light has fully cycled without the bike tripping the switch for the light. Is this really allowed or was I misinformed?

Answer: You obviously DID NOT take this course in Texas! If you did, “YES,” you were given some very BAD information about how to handle a traffic light that won’t change on a motorcycle. The ONLY person in Texas that can wave you legally through a RED traffic signal is a police officer. You cannot take it upon yourself just to go through the light because it didn’t change, especially on a motorcycle. The best advise I can give on what to do if a traffic signal won’t change is to turn on your RIGHT signal, and only when it’s clear, turn Right. Intentionally running a red light that won’t turn green endangers other motorists on the roadway. With you being on a motorcycle, the last thing you and other motorcycle riders need is to make your ride more dangerous.

Alvin asks: In relating to the Texas open container law, is an empty container of an alcoholic beverage considered an open container? If someone is stopped by a police officer and the officer observes an open container of an alcoholic beverage in the vehicle cup holder, but after further investigation, finds the alcoholic beverage container is empty, is that open container a violation or does it have to contain the alcoholic beverage?

Answer: Law enforcement constantly encounters the “brown paper bag,” like that makes the alcoholic beverage invisible. I’ve yet to see someone consuming water or soda in a brown paper bag. No one in the state of Texas is allowed to operate or park a motor vehicle on the roads of Texas with any amount of an alcoholic beverage in the passenger area of the vehicle. This is one of those questions that needs to be posted everywhere. It doesn’t matter if you poured the alcoholic beverage from its original container to a personal cup. If there’s ANY amount of the alcoholic beverage discovered by a police officer in the passenger area of a motor vehicle, that is a violation in Texas. If it’s an empty can, bottle or container that was consumed at a much earlier time, even though the can, bottle or container is open and once contained an alcoholic beverage, that is NOT considered a violation of the open container law in Texas. Understand, the open container of an alcoholic beverage MUST be found in the passenger area of the vehicle, which is the area of a motor vehicle that’s designed for seating the driver and its passengers. The glove box, trunk or the area behind the 3rd row is NOT considered the passenger area. There are vehicles that are exempt from the open container law in the passenger area in Texas i.e. bus, taxicab, limousines or living quarters of mobile home, recreational vehicle or self-contained campers. In addition, if someone is driving or seated in the passenger of a motor vehicle, and if the seal has been broken on bottle or can opened of an alcoholic beverage, even though the beverage has not been consumed they commit a crime of open Container.

Join Me, Officer Rickey Antoine and the crew of Stephen “Buzzard Boots” Mosley, Lelo “mouth of Hwy 69/73” I. Washington and Tejas “Lil Man” Morning Star for Ask A Cop live on KSAP 96.9 FM, The Breeze radio station every Tuesday from 1 to 3 p.m. Tune in via the Internet at ksapthebreeze.org. Call in questions live at 409-982-0247. Email questions to rickey.antoine@portarthurtx.gov, call 409-983-8673 for voice mail or mail them to 645 4th Street, Port Arthur, Texas, 77640. If you happen to see me in public, you can always approach and “Ask A Cop!”