Our state legislators heard gut-wrenching testimony yesterday as they began considering whether to again pass a law to ban texting while driving after the governor vetoed it after the last session.
Several victims of distracted drivers or those who have had loved ones killed in tragic collisions testified that Texas needs to prevent texting while driving. We had 3,331 traffic deaths in 2011, with more than 400 due to distracted driving.
I’ve handled many more crashes with the advent of cell phones. In one lawsuit last year, I subpoened the other driver’s records to prove that, despite the 20 year old woman’s denials, she was looking at her phone just before the crash which lead to a favorable settlement at a pre-trial mediation.
State law already prohibits drivers from texting while transporting anyone under the age of 17, while in school crossing zones, and when younger than 18. So our safety officials recognize the danger. And Arlington and about 30 cities — not to mention 40 other states and the U.S. government — have banned this.
This law is favored by Texas doctors, police, and the Department of Transportation. State legislators have filed six bills to ban texting while driving. The most comprehensive one bans “the use of a hand held wireless communication device to read, write, or send a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped.” Note that it would be okay to use hands-free phones. And a driver could use a hand held phone to read and enter phone numbers and to use Google Maps.
In Texas we had about 11,400 collisions caused by texting while driving just in 2011, which cost us a whopping $684 million. In the United States, 387,000 people were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. A driver can travel the length of a football field and take his eyes off the road for an alarming 4.6 seconds — the average time it takes to read just one message. More than half of drivers, especially younger ones, also text and/or using the internet. The odds of getting hit by a distracted driver are high.
I urge readers to become educated on the perils of using cell phones while driving and to contact their state representatives to vote for this law.