One Out of Every Five Car Accidents Caused by Distracted Driving
According to a bulletin released on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, by the Texas Department of Transportation, or TxDOT, 459 people died in Texas in 2013 due to car crashes caused by distracted drivers. When compared to the amount of distracted driving accidents in 2012, the number of collisions increased by four percent. The drastic increase in accidents caused by distracted driving is causing many state officials to feel worried about the upcoming year.
John Barton, a deputy executive director for TxDOT, released a statement claiming that one out of every five car accidents in Texas is caused by a distracted driver. Distracted driving accidents, he stated, can be prevented if drivers focused 100% on the road—not just for their sake, but for others, as well. The report also claims that drivers who use cellphones while operating a motor vehicle are four times more likely to get into a serious crash than those who do not utilize cellphones while driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that cellphone use is highest in individuals between the ages 16 and 24, meaning they are more at risk for causing and being injured in accidents caused by distracted driving.
Texting and Driving Laws in Texas
The bulletin was released at the beginning of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and the start of TxDOT's Talk, Text, Crash public education campaign. It is said that this bulletin is a likely indication that texting while driving is most likely going to get attention when the Texas Legislature is back in session next year.
During the 2011 session, lawmakers passed a texting-while-driving ban, but Governor Rick Perry vetoed it because he did not want the state to "micromanage people's behavior." In 2012, the likelihood of Perry vetoing the law was highly likely, so Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Robert Nichols didn't bring a similar bill up to vote on—resulting in another year texting and driving was allowed in the State of Texas.
Tom Craddick, who penned the two previous texting and driving bills, was unavailable for comment on Wednesday, but prior to Legislature adjourning last year, he claimed he would try again in the 2015 session. Perry is not running for re-election, so if Craddick's proposal passes, it is probable Republican Greg Abbott or Democrat Wendy Davis will be responsible of either accepting or denying said bill.
Is there hope for Texas in 2015?
While Craddick's bill only banned texting while driving, there are various other forms of distracted driving that can lead to serious accidents including:
- Checking emails
- Talking on a cellphone
- Eating and drinking
- Programming a navigation system
- Watching a video
- Adjusting audio devices
Representative John Smithee, who created an amendment to Craddick's bill to update ordinances Amarillo and El Paso approved recently, stated he believes Craddick's bill may have a better chance of becoming a law next year, since there will be a new governor and because Craddick is one of the most competent legislators. The public is also more aware of the dangers using a cellphone while driving can cause. Smithee also claimed that whatever law is passed should be statewide, so every Texas resident is aware of said law.