Quick Facts from this Article:
- Texas is one of six states without a ban on texting and driving.
- Young drivers make up a large proportion of fatal distracted driving accidents.
- Texting and driving is more dangerous than drinking and driving.
- It can be hard to prove drivers were distracted, though from my personal experience, it's not impossible.
Cell Phones Here to Stay
Cell phones may have originally been intended for businessmen, but today you'd be hard-pressed to find an American without one. Wireless calling has changed the way our society runs, allowing us to communicate quickly, cheaply and efficiently at all hours of the day.
Of course, calling each other isn't all we use our cells for. We text, check our email, browse Facebook, follow GPS and surf the internet, sometimes for work, sometimes for pleasure, and sometimes simply because we're bored. Waiting in the doctor's office, standing in line at the post office, walking down the block to Starbucks - haven't we all pulled out our phones to help pass the time?
And where do you draw the line?
Texas is one of only six states without a ban on texting and driving. There aren't any states that ban cell phone use and driving altogether. We all know that texting and driving is dangerous, and we've all heard about the tragedies that result from distracted driving, but where should the government step in? Should all cell phone use be prohibited, or just the most "dangerous" kinds? And what happens when a loved one dies in a distracted driving accident?
Hit by a distracted driver? Here's what you should do.
Quick Texting and Driving Stats
I won't get too deep into the nitty-gritty statistics here - for a more detailed look, check out this infographic on distracted driving in Texas. However, I think it's important to make a few things clear.
First, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants us to know that distracted driving kills thousands of people each year, and the "under 30-year-olds" are heavily to blame. Drivers in their 20s make up 27 percent of the distracted drivers in fatal crashes, and ten percent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal wrecks were distracted at the time of the accident.
Perhaps it's a lack of education. Perhaps it's poor reasoning skills. Perhaps it's overconfidence. Either way, people - teens, even - are killing others with their cars. It's a very real, very serious issue.
A 2009 press release published by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) gained national attention when it reported that texting and driving was the most dangerous of all cell phone activities. According to the report, dialing a number in your cell phone while driving increases your risk of a crash by about 3 times, while texting and driving increases those chances by 23 times (in a heavy vehicle).
The VTTI recommended banning texting for all drivers.
Enforcing the Law is Tough
Since 2012, thirty-two states - Texas included - have banned all cell phone use by new drivers, including drivers under the age of 18 and drivers who have had their permit for under 6 months. Forty-four states have made texting and driving illegal for all drivers. But are laws enough?
It's no secret that enforcing a ban on texting and driving is tough. Spotting the offenders is more difficult than it seems, and I know from experience that it's extremely difficult to prove a driver caused a wreck because they were distracted. At my firm, we subpoena the phone records of suspected cell phone-users, but they don't always help; if you're reading a text or email, or browsing the internet, your data service won't necessarily reflect that. That's not to say that it isn't impossible, but it's not straightforward.
"But why does it matter? Texting and driving isn't illegal!" you say. Not in Texas, no, but you're still required to pay full attention to your driving duties. If it can be proven that you were texting and driving at the time you crashed, fault can be proven, too.
In a 2009 discussion, President Obama's administration addressed the issue by urging people to take a personal stand against texting and driving. We cannot rely on legal action alone because it's difficult to legislate behavior and there aren't enough police to catch every wrongdoer. Instead, it's important that we all take personal responsibility for our habits.
You'd Be Safer Driving Drunk
Obligatory legal disclaimer: I'm not suggesting you drive drunk.
Still, this is an interesting point. Car and Driver Magazine performed an experiment to compare texting and driving to drunk driving. Using a vehicle simulator, participants were asked to hit the brakes when a red light flashed. Sober participants could stop the car in four feet, legally drunk participants (with a BAC level of .08) needed an additional 36 feet to stop, and participants who were texting during the simulation needed a whopping 70 additional feet to brake.
Texting and driving is more dangerous than drinking and driving, as this and many other studies have shown.
You might also be interested in: Driving Drowsey? You're on Par with Drunk Drivers.
When Texting and Driving Kills
I've seen the aftermath of texting and driving accidents. Sometimes the wrecks are so severe, it makes you wonder: did a puny cell phone really cause all that?
When someone's distracted by their phone while driving, they're usually looking down. Unlike other types of distractions - say, a flashing billboard or a stray dog outside the car - texters don't see the wreck coming and they don't apply their brakes, even at the last second. This can lead to bigger collisions and more serious injuries. Unfortunately, it can even end in death.
In Texas in 2013, nearly 500 people were killed in distracted driving accidents. No matter how big or small that number may seem to you, one thing's for certain: each and every one of those deaths could have been prevented.
If you've been injured in a texting and driving accident in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I'm happy to answer any questions you have about the law in Texas or your chances of a successful lawsuit.
Governors Highway Safety Association. http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html
Virginia Tech. http://www.vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2009/07/2009-571.html
Texas DMV. http://www.dmv.org/tx-texas/safety-laws.php
Car and Driver. http://www.caranddriver.com/features/texting-while-driving-how-dangerous-is-it