Distracted driving has been around for as long as there have been motor vehicles and drivers, but it has taken as a new, and deadlier, slant in the age of technology and smart phones. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has pointed to distracted driving as one of the main reasons why fatalities on public U.S. roadways have risen dramatically in recent years.
According to NHTSA, the 400,000+ roadway deaths in 2016 marked the deadliest year on record since 2007. Although data is still not available for 2017 fatalities, the agency has stated that numbers in the first half of last year are continuing the trend. Both NHTSA and the National Safety Council say that has a great deal to do with the fact that drivers are now far more likely to cause accidents when engaged in dangerous distractions, including reading, composing, or sending text-based content on their cell phones.
In an effort to fight the nationwide epidemic, advocates and safety experts have urged Texas lawmakers to pass tougher distracted driving laws, including tougher laws regarding texting while driving. Although the Lone Star State still has much to improve upon in terms of passing tougher regulations banning texting and cell phone use for drivers across the board, the fact remains that driver distraction (whether it constitutes an offense or not) is still one of the most dangerous and negligent acts a motorist can engage in behind the wheel. That’s precisely what officials from the Texas Department of Transporation (TxDOT) are looking to get across with their new “Heads Up Texas” safety campaign.
Fighting the Distracted Driving Problem in Texas
As part of a partnership with AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign, TxDOT’s “Heads Up Texas” initiative features teams of representatives and volunteers traveling the state in order to hold events that educate motorists about the substantial risks that accompany driver distraction – risks such as:
- Drivers being roughly 23 times more likely to crash when using a cell phone.
- Increased accident risks for not just writing and sending text messages, but also for taking one’s visual, manual, and mental attention off the road to simply read a message, browse the internet, or use apps like Instagram or Facebook.
- Increased accident risks distracted drivers pose to pedestrians and bicyclists, including children.
Increased risks like these have resulted in thousands of preventable car accidents, injuries, and deaths throughout Texas. In fact, TxDOt reports that in 2017 alone, roughly 20 percent of the 537,000+ vehicle wrecks in Texas involved a driver who was distracted at the time. Unfortunately, this also resulted in nearly 450 confirmed deaths and close to 2,900 serious injuries – which could very well be higher than the numbers show due to difficulties in proving distraction or having drivers admit to fault. TXDOT data also shows that distracted driving crashes increased by 8% in 2017 when compared to 2016, and that drivers between the ages of 16 to 24 are most likely to be involved or killed in a distraction-affected crash.
As part of its initiative, TxDOT wants to call attention to the numbers and illustrate just how seriously distraction can compromise a driver’s ability to be aware of their surroundings and avoid collisions. To achieve this, events at cities across the state with feature a virtual reality experience similar to a video game or driving simulation program. That program will show how drivers have substantially reduced reaction time and increased risks of causing property damage and injuries when they engage in various distractions, including cell phone use.
The Daspit Law Firm: Protecting Victims’ Rights
Events like TxDOT’s “Heads Up Texas” campaign are crucial to educating the public about the real risks of distracted driving – risks our Houston car accident attorneys at The Daspit Law Firm have unfortunately seen first-hand. As personal injury lawyers who fight for victims across Texas, we have worked with many victims who suffered serious and preventable injuries when drivers around them chose distractions over safe operation of their vehicles, as well as families who have lost loved ones in the most tragic of ways.
Our entire legal team wants to remind everyone about the importance of avoiding distractions behind the wheel, and to extend our support to those who unfortunately fall victim to drivers who fail to uphold their legal obligations behind the wheel. If you wish to discuss a potential auto accident case, including accidents and injuries caused by a driver who may have been distracted at the time of a wreck, do not hesitate to contact our firm for a FREE consultation about your rights and the personal injury or wrongful death claim process. Our team is available 24/7 to help victims from multiple office locations, and can even come to you.