Ask a cop: Commercial about texting, driving raises question about legality

Published 8:01 am Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Nancy from Port Arthur asks: Officer Antoine, I will admit you have truly changed my driving behavior by your relentless work at stopping cars on the road, your outreach to the surrounding community with this “Ask A Cop” article, as well as your radio show on Tuesdays. I’m not able to tune in to your radio show as often as I would like to, but the times when I caught your show I found it both entertaining and educational. Who would have thought “YOU,” Officer Antoine, the ticket master, had such a witty personality! Just a personal note from me to you, don’t let anyone stop you from doing exactly what you are doing. Whether you know it or not, you have made a difference! Officer Antoine, I’ve been hearing commercials on the radio about Police Officers stopping drivers for driving and texting, which confuses me because I didn’t know it was illegal to text and drive in Texas. I believe texting is dangerous, but is it illegal in Texas?

Answer: Good question, Nancy! Thanks, Nancy, for your reinforcement of the mission of The Port Arthur Police Department Traffic Enforcement Unit! It’s motorists like you and many, many others that are the reason why we continue to work continuously to protect and educate our communities. Nancy, yes, I enjoy myself on the radio station where we get an opportunity to tear down stereotypes, misconceptions and any false information that has been passed down from motorists to motorists. We also get a chance to share a laugh or two or three or four….(smile)! Nancy, I have heard the commercial that is sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, better known as NHTSA, about texting and driving is dangerous, and if you are caught you could be given a citation for texting while driving. Well, that pertains to other states that have enacted a texting while driving law. Unfortunately, Texas is not such a state that has approved such a law.

Texas Governors have vetoed the texting law for 3 years in a row. So that commercial may pertain to municipalities in Texas that have adopted a texting while driving ordinance in their individual cities. Nancy, I along with my supervisor, Lt. Steve Brinson, have been sounding the alarm for the last four years for a Texting while Driving Ordinance to be adopted in Port Arthur, but it always seem to lose its steam! There are 44 states in the USA that have banned at least texting while driving in a motor vehicle, while Texas ONLY outlaws texting while driving in active school zones and it has to be posted. So Nancy, to answer your question, NO, it’s not illegal to TEXT and DRIVE in Texas unless you are in an active school zone and it’s posted!

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I hope you don’t think we have given up on the ordinance for Texting and Driving. No, just the opposite. We will continue to knock, and knock, and ask, and ask until we have a texting ordinance, and we are also going to invite our surrounding communities (Beaumont, Nederland, Groves, Port Neches and Bridge City) to join in our efforts to safeguard our motorists while on the roads of Southeast Texas. Nancy it is my opinion that the only thing you can do that’s more dangerous in a vehicle than Texting while driving is SLEEPING while driving!

Billy from Port Neches asks: Officer Antoine, I have a dumb question and I know you have the answer to this dumb question. If you sign a citation, you might as well go pay the ticket because when we sign the ticket we are signing that the officer is right, right?

Answer: Good question, Billy! WRONG! Billy, that’s a major misconception that so many motorists have when they receive a citation/ticket from a police officer. Many people believe they are pleading their case as GUILTY when they sign the citation. This could be not further from the truth. Billy, when a police officer in the state of Texas issues you a citation and ask you to sign the citation, your signature is not an admittance of guilt, it’s ONLY a promise to appear before the mentioned court by the said date and time…that’s it! You are NOT saying that the officer is right and you are wrong, ONLY that you will go to court by that deadline stated on the citation! I can’t begin to tell you, Billy, how many people don’t understand the process of signing a citation/ticket. In Texas, we don’t have a choice of mailing you the citation on scene if you refuse to sign. The law says you WILL be arrested and have your body brought before the magistrate, if you refuse to sign a citation/ticket in Texas! NO ifs, ands or buts about it…it’s clear cut either sign the citation/ticket or go to jail! Billy, consider this, most motorists are not aware that they are already under arrest when the Police Officer is issuing them a citation/ticket, and their signature is actually their Personal Recognizance Bond. No money needed, just the motorist’s word/signature promising to go to court is enough for the officer to release you during the investigation. So if you don’t bond yourself out with a signature, you will be taken into custody. I have been a Police Officer in Port Arthur since 2000, and I’ve taken 3 people into custody who simply refused to sign their bond. Now, is it worth being taken into custody, having your vehicle towed and transported to JAIL because you didn’t want to sign a ticket?

Kace from Beaumont asks: Officer Antoine, I looked at the weather map in advance and it looks like we are headed for some wet weather. Is it a violation for the driver of a car not to turn on their windshield wipers during rainy weather?

Answer: Good question, Kace! The very first thing came to my mind is, WHO would do such a thing? But, the world that we live in I’m sure somebody is more than willing to put this to the challenge. By the way, this is a very timely question, Kace, and you are correct, inclement weather is present in Southeast Texas, because as I type my column, it sounds like the roof is going to cave in. Kace, in Texas, the Transportation Code only addresses the presence of a properly functional wiper system, not when to turn on the windshield wiper system. I haven’t tried it, but some motorists swear by products like Rain-X that repel water from the windshield without the aid of windshield wipers. So to answer your question, “NO,” it’s not illegal to drive in rainy weather without turning on the windshield wipers, as long as the windshield wipers are in good working condition.

Join Officer Antoine for Ask A Cop live, on KSAP 96.9 FM The Breeze radio station, every Tuesday for 1 hour from 1p-2p. Tune in and listen as Officer Antoine discusses in detail the newly released “Ask A Cop” article that printed in The News. You can also tune in via internet at . Feel free to call in and ask your question live to Officer Antoine at (409) 982-0247. Remember to email your questions to , or call 409-984-8541 and leave a voice mail question, or mail them to: Ofc. Rickey Antoine, 645 4th Street, Port Arthur, Texas, 77640. If you happen to see me in public you can Ask A Cop!