Crash Evidence Indicates Stronger Enforcement Would Save Lives
An article in The Dallas Morning News on Sunday argued that crash data collected from cities and states with bans in place does not definitely prove that stronger laws would reduce the numbers of texting while driving related collisions. The journalist stopped short of suggesting state legislators reject passage of an anti-texting bill, but lamely wrote that texting-related accident statistics “raised more questions than they answered.”
Earlier this year, the law he refers to that would have banned texting while driving sailed through the Texas House with wide support and was widely predicted to pass the Senate. However, the bill was blocked from reaching the Senate floor — not that Governor Abbott would have signed the law, as Governor Perry previously refused to do. Therefore, Texas remains one of only four states in the country that allows this dangerous practice. About 40 Texas cities have enacted their own anti-texting laws on the books, creating a confusing patchwork of ordinances that changes from one town to the next. But Texas safety officials know this is a problem and prohibit drivers from texting in school zones and teens from texting and driving at all. The system cries out for uniform regulations, like every state’s requiring seat belts and prohibiting drunk driving.
Researchers in the News article relied on drivers’ own statements, their insurance claims, and their admissions in hospital records, which produced unreliable results. Numerous studies abound that prove distracted driving is dangerous and, even though enforcement is difficult, does not mean Texas laws should permit the dangerous practice. Over 100,000 distracted driving caused wrecks happened in Texas last year, resulting in 483 deaths and over 3,000 serious injuries. This increased six percent from the year before.Almost 45 percent of drivers here admitted to driving while talking on their cell phones (and we know that number is much higher). And 83 percent of Texas drivers agreed that was dangerous.
An often-quoted fact is that a driver takes her or his eyes off the road for an average of five seconds while texting, which at 55 mph amounts to driving the length of a football field blindfolded. If driving through a residential neighborhood, the driver may be travelling at half that speed and cover more than 150 feet.
The author of the News article caiming that police would have trouble catching a driver in the act is no excuse. Putting the law on the books would give law enforcement officers an important tool to cite reckless drivers. Crash victims would also have additional recourse when a distracted driver causes an accident. For instance, Berenson Law Firm subpoenas cell phone records if I suspect distracted driving caused an accident that injured my client.
Many people unfortunately still drink and drive despite the laws banning the practice, but many more people think twice about ending up with a DWI. In other words, although the DWI laws aren’t foolproof, they nonetheless deter a percentage of intoxicated driving that could have resulted in a crash. The same would hold true for a texting while driving ban.
Are we going to have to wait until more people die before we start to implement a solution? The research and the law may not have caught up with what is a somewhat recent phenomenon, but the fact remains, texting while driving is a serious risk and we need to start putting the laws in place to stop it.