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Distracted Driving I just attended the monthly meeting of the Fort Worth Safe Communities Coalition.I serve on the Road Safety Task Force with officials from the Fort Worth Police Department, City of Fort Worth, Tarrant County, and other government leaders. Our goal is to make Fort Worth roads and highways safer. As always, the subject of texting while driving and how we can discourage that extremely dangerous practice came up, but we have no good solutions. And everywhere I go, people tell me they were almost in a car accident or saw another driver weaving and they were staring at or using their cell phones. We all know that texting while driving is out of control. Some people have asked if it is against the law.

Yes texting while driving is a crime but ...

Texas became one of the last states in the country to ban texting while driving. Four previous attempts had failed. As a result, over 100 cities had already enacted their own ordinances because they could see how deadly this practice had become. The new law became effective about two years ago on September 1, 2017. It bans motorists from using a portable device to write, send, or read messages while the vehicle is moving. But unlike in many states, Texans can still use hand-held cell phones to make and receive calls. If you are caught, you face a fine from $25.00 to $99.00. If you are somehow charged a second (or more) time, a judge can set the fine from $100.00 to $200.00. The odds of this happening are slender.  A police office must actually see you texting while driving, which is obviously hard for him or her to see - and we have a noticeable lack of police on the roads. As a result, very few tickets have been issued.

Why we must do a better job restricting cell phone use

A shocking 40,000 people die each year on our country's highways and roads in motor vehicle collisions. Think about TCU's football stadium nearly filled with people if you are having trouble visualizing how many lives are lost every year. Distracted driving is one of the top three causes of those deaths, along with driving while intoxicated and speeding.
And a study showed that more Texans are using their phones now than before the law was passed. About 90% of drivers admit to doing this -- in other words, just about everyone next to you is probably texting while driving or at least dialing a number next to you at some point during your drive. This helps explain why Texas had over 537,000 car wrecks last year, with 100,000 plus said to have been caused by distracted driving. And I believe that number is much higher, since no one is going to admit that to the investigating patrol officer. 80,000 of those collisions were here in Tarrant and Dallas Counties. Consider that if a driver takes his or her eyes off of the road to read or send a short test, they won't see other vehicles for at least five seconds on average. If they are traveling at 55 miles per hour, that's about 100 yeards, the length of a football field. Talk about an accident waiting to happen! You might not think that is a big problem until you are crashed into or someone rear ends your vehicle.

We can help

As a Fort Worth car accident lawyer, I have helped thousands of people over the past 39 years. But I see more and more distracted driving collisions with each passing year. They are sadly the new norm. Please contact my office if you have any questions about your car or truck crash. You can reach us at 1-888-801-8585 or by clicking here.

.... and who shot J.R.?

Berenson Injury Law has filed suit on behalf of a husband and wife who were seriously injured when they were rear ended by a commercial vehicle on Interstate 35. Both could have died. They suffered multiple fractures, had to undergo surgeries and extensive physical therapy, and have a very difficult time recovering from their massive injuries. The young commercial driver admitted that he looked away and didn't notice the traffic in front of him slowing down. We intend to prove that he was texting while driving in violation of state and federal laws. We look forward to fighting for our clients and getting them the compensation they deserve.

The two Dallas County Court buildings

The lawsuit was filed in Dallas County in the building on the right. But we used this photo which also includes the original "Old Red Courthouse" because many people -- including those who watched the blockbuster series "Dallas" from the late 70's through the early 90's-- may think that is the real district courts building. Here is more information about its beautiful architectural details. "Old Red" is now a museum that showcases the history of Dallas, both real and virtual. The white Stetson hat J.R. Ewing wore is prominently displayed. OK, so how many of you can still remember the answer to the sizzling question of "who shot J.R.?"

We can help you

Berenson Injury Law has filed many lawsuits against companies and their negligent drivers over the past nearly 40 years. We are going to hold the company and its driver accountable for the enormous damages they have caused our clients. In addition, we want other businesses to hear about substantial court verdicts and settlements and be motivated to hire better drivers, more effectively train and supervise them, and quickly terminate the bad ones so that we drivers are safer on our highways. Please contact us if you have any questions about your collision case.

Hundreds of thousands of new residents are adding to the high rate of car crashes

Our DFW area was the fastest-growing area in the U.S. last year. Fort Worth almost added the most people in the country. Cowtown is suddenly the 13th largest city in the U.S., with our  population almost doubling to about 900,000 people in less than 20 years. And other cities in North Texas, including Frisco, McKinney, and Rowlett, were among the top 10 fastest-growing cities last year. But that's not all good news. With this rapid population growth comes a serious problem that I see on a daily basis: more car accidents in Dallas-Fort Worth and sadly, more injuries and deaths. The word has clearly gotten out about how great it is to live in Texas. Millions of people have found out this is the one of the best places to live on the planet. Texas adds almost 400,000 new residents a year, the most of any state in the U.S. But Texas highways were already among the country's most dangerous. Here in North Texas parts of I-35 and I-20 are on the top 10 worst roads lists in the U.S. An estimated 3,600 people tragically lose their lives in car and truck wrecks each year, one every two hours. A fellow Texan is injured in a vehicle ever two minutes. I've lived here most of my life since I found out about the Plan II Honors Program at the University of Texas at Austin and transferred from a small liberal arts college in the East back in 1974. I wasn't born here but I got here as fast as I could.

New Low For A Distracted Driver in Texas

A Stephenville woman was arrested Friday after she caused the deaths of two young girls and serious injuries to their mother. Alyssa Litwin, 33, was driving her truck on U.S. Highway 281 southwest of Fort Worth at a speed of approximately 60 mph. But she was texting while driving and didn't see the SUV in front of her at a complete stop waiting to make a left hand turn. A distracted driver usually doesn't. The high-speed crash pushed the SUV into oncoming traffic where it was struck by a truck. As if her reckless driving were not bad enough, Litwin deleted her text messages. However a forensics exam of her cell phone showed her shocking act of tampering with evidence. The mother had to be rushed by air ambulance to the ICU at Harris Hospital in Fort Worth. Fortunately, she is in stable condition and two other children in her vehicle were not hurt. But this is such a heartbreaking story, especially at Christmas time. Please join our office in making a donation to the GoFundMe account that has been set up to assist the family.

New Law Enacted A Year Ago

We've been keeping tabs on the Texas texting ban and hoping it makes people drive more responsibly. But the jury is still out on whether the new law is working. While most people agreed that our state should prohibit texting while driving, the new law was so watered down by the Legislature that it has not been effective. In fact, more Texans are texting and driving - and causing car accidents -  than ever before.

Texas Texting Ban

Texas Department of Public Safety troopers have issued only 1,195 tickets and 4,247 warnings to drivers in the past year according to the Star-Telegram.  As much as we'd like to think that these lower-than-expected numbers correlate to fewer drivers texting on their phones, that is wishful thinking. After the Texas texting ban came into effect on September 1, 2017 the Texas Department of Transportation partnered with AT&T on the It Can Wait campaign to educate drivers about cellphone use. According to the data collected, 89% of Texans admitted that they still use the smartphone while driving, more than before the law was passed. This is a very serious problem that sites like the Department of Transportation's Talk Text Crash will not begin to solve. That site reports there were over 537,000 reported crashes in Texas (often police choose not to write police reports so the number is much higher) just last year. A whopping 100,000 of those were caused by cell phone use and distracted driving. Don't think that matters? 444 Texans lost their lives in those car wrecks and almost 3,000 were seriously injured. The numbers for 2018 have not been released yet but it is believed they will be even higher based on year to date figures. Texas is still the worst state when it comes to fatal crashes involving cell phone use while driving -- far more than California which has 12 million more people.

New Law Not Working

The number of injuries and deaths caused by distracted driving in Texas keeps increasing every year. It's the new normal. We take it for granted. But this is a serious mistake we are making. We at Berenson Injury Law were hopeful when Texas finally became one of the last states to adopt an anti-texting while driving law last year. But unfortunately that hasn’t stopped -- or even slowed -- this deadly problem on our roads. The Texas Department of Transportation reported a shocking increase of 20% of distracted driving crashes last year.

Those collisions were responsible for at least 450 of the more than 3,721 people who sadly perished on our roads. And there’s good reason to believe that this number is far higher, as it is often impossible to know exactly what caused a car crash. Even before the new state-wide texting while driving law was finally passed, this was such a vital issue to public safety that 100 cities had already enacted statutes to prevent their residents. It’s also made drivers far less likely to admit they were texting before the accident. They know it’s illegal and no one wants to take the blame for an accident; especially if they are responsible for another person’s serious injuries or death. There’s also the issue of single driver accidents. A car might run off the road because of a deer . . . or be distracted by an incoming text. If there aren’t any witnesses, it’s often a matter of taking the driver's word about what happened. If the accident ends in a fatality, law enforcement officers never know what caused the wreck, so the numbers are artificially lowered and we are not as afraid to text as we blissfully drive on roads at 65 or more miles per hour. We talk about this alarming topic a lot on our site because this is a problem that needs to stop.

The eyes of Texas may be upon you but they sure aren't on the roads. Several nights ago a man rear-ended a stopped vehicle in Plano, killed its driver, and seriously injured its passenger. Car wrecks are usually caused by a driver's negligence. What's the biggest reason these days? His or her distracted driving. The driver is probably using his cell phone and may also be eating and drinking, playing with his music controls, talking to passengers, and/or zoned out. That's why April is Distracted Driving Month and why we must end this incredibly dangerous practice.

These helpful apps can lower your chances of being in a car wreck

For the first time in Texas history, texting while driving is illegal. Finally! We were almost the last state to outlaw this incredibly dangerous practice. The new law just started on September 1st and many people still don't know about it.

Texting and Driving

And the common habit of tweeting or surfing the net at 60 MPH will be hard to break. After all, we are all addicted to our cell phones. Is there a way to prevent getting a ticket or far worse, causing an auto accident? Yes, fortunately. The Fort Worth Star Telegram just reviewed several new apps that you might find helpful. I discussed some of them here. 1. Do Not Disturb While Driving. On Tuesday Apple unveiled the new iOS 11 software and iPhone 8 which include an exciting Do Not Disturb feature that you can enable when you get into your car -- or make your teenager do. The feature blocks text messages and phone calls and sends an automatic reply that the user is driving. The driver can still receive phone calls through a hands-free device. The app eliminates the temptation to take a peek when a ping announces a text message.

The law couldn’t come soon enough

Texas is about to become the 48th state to outlaw texting while driving. Okay, so at least we weren’t last. The law takes effect on September 1. But, why wait? Why not just go ahead and put the phone away? If you need convincing, consider that distracted drivers caused 109,000 accidents and killed 455 people in Texas in 2016. Distracted drivers were responsible for more than 8,200 crashes that killed 23 people in Tarrant County and more than 7,000 accidents that killed 16 people in Dallas County. It is impossible to look at a phone screen and drive safely at the same time. A driver who does so is just an accident waiting to happen. Some people will text and drive regardless, but many others will stop to avoid a traffic fine and points on their driving record.

Good news: for years teenage traffic fatalities declined in Texas. From 2005 to 2014, the number of teen deaths dropped by 51 percent. Texas’s graduated licensing program, education, and safer cars seemed to be making a positive impact. Bad news: in 2015 things took a turn for the worse when teen deaths unfortunately spiked by 9 percent. And based on what I've seen in my practice as an injury lawyer, I'm not optimistic about the release of the  2016 statistics. How can we stop this from happening? And what can you do if you crashed into by a teenage driver?

Teens: drunk driving and speeding are nothing to brag about

Last week's horrific YouTube video of an 18 year-old driving drunk and killing her younger sister and a Snapchat video which recorded a woman partying in the days before she was killed in a drunk driving crash have gone viral. These videos ended tragically, but others in which drunk and speeding teen drivers miraculously survive continue to pop up on social media and actually be liked by peers and followers. The teens enjoy a few moments of minor fame for their risky escapade, which may be encouraging others to follow suit.
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