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.
Alarming study shows why our roads are so dangerous
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety provides an annual survey that identifies drivers’ attitudes and behaviors related to traffic safety. The newly released 2017 study covered a number of topics such as speeding, seat belt use, and distracted driving. The statistics related to cell phone use reveal the depth of the problem.
— Drivers who use their cell phone for texting or internet surfing are a shocking eight times more likely to be in a crash.
— It only takes two seconds of taking their eyes off the road for drivers to double their chance of having a crash.
— Drivers using in-vehicle technologies such as voice-based or touch screen features are often distracted for more than 40 seconds at a time.
People realize how dangerous texting while driving is. But the problem is that they don’t seem to think the threat applies to them. And although they agree that legislation is needed, they continue to use their cell phones to talk or text while behind the wheel.
Still not convinced this is a serious problem?
- Almost one-half of drivers admit to reading a text or email while driving and over one-third admitted they typed or sent a text while driving;
- But only 8% of drivers believe texting while driving is more of a threat than talking on a cell phone; and
- Almost no drivers support legislation banning texting while driving or cell phone use
And add this to the other common causes of car wrecks, like having other distractions like other people to talk to, looking at what to play on Spotify and CD players, eating, drinking, and grooming, and you have the proverbial accident waiting to happen.
Texting and Driving: Just a Problem With Teenagers?
59% of all crashes involving teen drivers involve some form of driver inattention and 12% involve cell phone use.
A lot of efforts have been made to alert us to the problem of teen texting and driving. When an increasing number of teens are crashing and dying, it’s important to take a serious look at the underlying cause. However, it isn’t just the number of teens having accidents from distracted driving. It’s the greater number of fatalities that occur with distracted drivers under the age of 20.
A number of factors make texting and driving more dangerous for teens than for older adults.
Teens are normally the least experienced drivers on the road. Being behind the wheel is the greatest feeling of freedom that most have had. At a time when you’d expect them to be unsure of themselves, they often feel confident in their driving skills.
They also have faith in their ability to multi-task. But in reality, the teenage brain is only programmed to focus on one thing at a time. Trying to multitask causes their brain and their reaction time to slow down.
That means they will respond to their surroundings about 33% slower than normal. That means a changing traffic light, a stop sign at an intersection, or their own car drifting over into the other lane can go unnoticed. By the time they realize there’s a threat, it’s too late. That’s the reason that teens are more likely to be in crashes when they text while driving.
Here are other dangerous activities that increase the risk:
- Teens are more likely to speed while they are driving;
- Teens are less likely to wear seat belts, either as drivers or passengers;
- Teens are less likely to recognize hazardous situations and make critical errors;
- Teens are less likely to allow the appropriate distance between their car and the one in front of them; and
- Teen males are more likely to drive while intoxicated
Any of these factors combined with texting while driving increase the possibility of crashing. And it also makes it more likely that the crash will result in a fatality.
The New Law and Hands-Free Talking
The idea of driving and talking hands-free appeals to more drivers. The majority believes that it is safe as long as they keep their hands and eyes on the road.
But the statistics don’t support this belief.
Some studies even point out that using a hands-free device might be more dangerous than a handheld phone. It still takes your mind off driving and gives some drivers a false sense of security. Hands-free is not, by far, risk-free.
The law that went into effect against distracted driving in Texas last September doesn’t extend to using a hands-free device. That means you can still talk, operate your music devices, work your GPS, and call 911. The latter task might be more likely if you continue to use your phone.
Although using a hands-free device is still legal, it doesn’t mean you should. It’s also important to prevent teens from using them, too. Preventing accidents and saving lives is always more important than obeying the letter of the law.
Don’t Drive Intexticated
This is such a serious problem that AAA has devoted an entire month each year to fighting it. Each April is now National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
This year AAA responded by launching their new “Don’t Drive Intoxicated – Don’t Drive Intexticated” initiative to help reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by cell phone use while driving.
The goal of the theme is to make texting while driving socially unacceptable. The organization hopes their campaign slogan will help case distracted driving in the same negative light as driving under the influence.
The program is aimed at all drivers of any age. It hopes to make people who would never drive while under the influence realize the similarity.
Taking their hands, eyes, and minds off the road puts them at just as great a risk of having an accident. AAA hopes to change people’s minds and their behaviors.
Parents, How You Can Help
Never assume that you know your teen well enough not to worry. It only takes one error in judgment for your teen to become a statistic.
Some studies place texting and driving as the leading cause of death for teen drivers. Using their cell phone while driving is one talent you don’t want to encourage.
1. Have a Serious Talk With Your Teen
Don’t make light of the topic and don’t let them brush it off either. Do your research ahead of time and give them some real-world examples. Don’t hesitate to present them with the scariest facts you can find. Lots of teens think they can text and talk while driving without danger. There are also lots of teens who never had the chance to correct their mistakes.
2. Draw Up a Contract
State the conditions under which they are not permitted to drive. That includes turning off their cell phone while they are driving. Limit the number and ages of passengers they can carry. It’s better if they only drive alone. Make one passenger the maximum and only when it’s someone you know and approve of. Include the punishment for failing to abide by any of the conditions in the contract. Make it stricter for any tickets or accidents, no matter how small.
3. Invest in a Safe Driving App
If you’re afraid your teen will give into temptation, a safe driving app might be the best solution. There are quite a few on the market and even some pretty good ones that are free. The different models work differently. The most important feature of every app is that it keeps your teen from using their cell phone while they are in motion.
4. Set a Good Example
Teens are at the greatest risk of accidents while using their cell phone, but they are far from being alone. Teens are far more likely to follow your example than take your advice. Keep your cell phone in the glove compartment turned off every time you drive. Always buckle up, abide by the speed limit, and never get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol. Make sure your teens learn the right way to drive safely; by example.
The Bottom Line: Texting and Driving Kills
The number of people engaging in distracted driving on Texas roads is growing. They’re causing damage to other people’s properties, causing injuries and deaths to pedestrians and drivers, and devastating lives. It’s not surprising that the number of personal injury cases involving distracted driving is on the rise too.
When you are at fault for another person’s injuries, you are responsible for their medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages. Your insurance company will probably pay some or all of these items, but you can be cancelled from coverage and have to pay much higher rates, or kept on but see higher premiums, if you need a further incentive.
What to Do When If You Have Been the Victim of a Distracted Driver
Most drivers aren’t forthcoming with the information that they were texting when they struck you. Sometimes it’s obvious. You see a car crossing the line, headed in your direction with their phone on top of the steering wheel. Sometimes it’s easier to go around them than try to get their attention away from their phone.
In other cases, you might not have a good look at the driver before the crash. You suspect they were distracted but you need to prove it.
A good accident attorney can help you take the steps to get the evidence you need to support your claim and win your case.
Most of the time, a subpoena is required to get the driver’s phone records. You should have an attorney handle the process from start to finish. He will investigate your claims about the accident and recover the phone records. They will show whether the phone was in use at the time of the crash.
Since the attempts to slow down distracted driving in Texas have been slow in coming, it’s up to you to be even more aware of other drivers. With about 30% of all car accidents across the state involving someone calling or texting, the odds of getting hit are not in your favor.
It’s also important to take the risks of using your cell phone while driving seriously. Too many drivers are over-confident that a related accident could never happen to them.
An increasing number of drivers are proving exactly how distracted driving really is. Taking safety precautions to prevent causing a crash is the most important thing you can do to help. Reporting any accidents you suspect were caused by a distracted driver will help.
It’s time to curtail distracted driving in Texas and start making our roads safe again. Every driver needs to do their part to follow the law.
They also need to apply common sense driving strategies that won’t contribute to an accident. Whether it’s from fatigue, passengers in the car, applying makeup in the rear view mirror, or texting your BFF, distracted driving is a deadly practice for anyone on the roads.
This is a serious problem that we at Berenson Injury Law have warned the public about many times before. We hear about it all the time from our clients when we ask them how their car and truck
accidents wrecks happened. No, you can’t just call them car accidents as if no one was responsible and they were inevitable.
We are strong advocates for drivers and are constantly trying to get the word out so that our streets will be safer.
For more on this important topic, check out some of our previous posts: