Distracted While Driving? It Could Be Fatal
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the Insurance Council of Texas urges motorists to put down the phone, wait to text, and help save the lives on our Texas roadways. According to information from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDot) distracted driving was responsible for at least 444 fatal crashes last year in Texas, and law enforcement officials say that number could be higher.
“If speed and alcohol have been ruled out, it can be difficult to determine just what role distracted driving may have played in any type of fatal traffic crash,” said Captain Steve Rundell with the Texas Department of Public Safety. “While the use of mobile phones is definitely a major factor, distracted driving can be the result of many causes.”
Overall, traffic fatalities increased last year with more than 3,700 people killed on Texas highways, representing a 10% increase in traffic deaths over 2016. While alcohol and speeding is blamed for more than half of all traffic fatalities, TxDot reports distracted driving accounted for approximately 13% of last year’s fatalities.
In addition, there were 619 deaths due to auto pedestrian accidents. Although it’s unknown how many auto pedestrian accidents may be the result of distracted driving, it is likely that distracted driving and pedestrians preoccupied with the mobile devices may be contributing to the number of auto pedestrian accidents.
“There’s no doubt that distracted driving is also a factor in auto pedestrian accidents,” said Captain Rundell. “You see the potential of that happening every day in downtown traffic.”
In 2017, the Texas Legislature passed legislation, House Bill 62, banning texting while driving. The law took effect on September 1, 2017, and prohibits drivers from using a “portable wireless device” to “read, write or send an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped.” Violators are subject to fines ranging from $25 to $99.
Captain Rundell says law enforcement officers have written many of these mobile device usage tickets since the law took effect. “Most of the drivers ticketed for using their cell phones are not paying attention and that’s the danger we are all facing from distracted drivers.”
ICT urges drivers to not only avoid texting and driving, but also other forms of distracted driving which includes:
- Changing the music.
- Using an app.
- Checking your GPS or map.
- Taking a photo.
- Checking email or posting to social media sites.
- Eating and drinking.
Putting on makeup/grooming.