Phones may be smart, but people who use them while driving aren’t. The number of deaths caused by texting while driving in Texas is horrific. What does it take to stop distracted driving?
Local and state police in Texas and other jurisdictions are optimistic that cell phone bans will become second nature in driving, like buckling a seatbelt. While an interesting point of view, it’s difficult to equate fastening your seatbelt with not texting while driving. Smartphones are addictive, and many drivers consider having one and using it while driving to be a necessity.
Distracted driving involves any activity that takes your hands off the steering wheel or your eyes away from the road. Distracted driving includes:
- Talking or texting on the phone
- Adjusting the radio
- Speaking with passengers
- Applying makeup
All types of distracted driving can cause traffic accidents. You risk yourself and your passengers when you distract yourself while behind the wheel. Cell phones are often a massive distraction, and people should avoid using them while driving.
Dangers of Distracted Driving
Explained in the section below, “Why is Distracted Driving so Dangerous?”
Why Is Distracted Driving So Dangerous?
Distracted driving interferes with the three main functions essential for driving safely.
- Vision. You need to keep your eyes on the road to drive safely. When drivers are distracted, they often look away from the road. This leads to reduced visual awareness of their speed, driving conditions, and proximity to things and people around them.
- Control. Distractions often cause drivers to take their hands off the wheel. When hands are off the steering wheel, it reduces a driver’s control over the vehicle.
- Mental awareness. A clear and focused mind is essential for safe driving. It’s crucial to stay alert to the numerous decisions that go into driving safely. When we get distracted, we risk turning off the part of our brain in control of those decisions.
Consequences of Distracted Driving
According to the CDC, roughly 3,000 people in the US die in car crashes caused by distracted drivers every year. The Texas Department of Transportation reported that distracted drivers were responsible for nearly one in five car crashes in 2020. Two hundred sixty-four people died in distracted driving accidents in Texas, and 2,200 people sustained serious injuries. Teens aged 15 to 19 are more likely to drive distracted than older drivers.
Using a cell phone while driving affects the way people process information, and research has shown that a driver’s attention and visual processing are suppressed when using a phone. When driving at high speeds, you only have a couple of seconds to react to incidents. When you’re distracted, your reaction time is slower, which can lead to a dangerous collision.
New Cell Phone Laws in Texas
People with their learner’s permits and drivers under 18 cannot use a cell phone while driving. Bus drivers are prohibited from using a cell phone while driving if children are on the bus. All drivers are prohibited from using a cell phone while driving in a school zone or on school property during times when speed limits are reduced.
The only exception to the restriction of using a cell phone while driving is the case of an emergency or to contact law enforcement. Try to pull to the side of the road before making a call, if possible.
Texting and Driving: Texas Laws
The no texting while driving law is a relatively new cell phone law in Texas. As of September 1st, 2017, texting while driving in Texas is illegal. This law targets drivers seen doing something on their phone, like typing or reading while holding it. The law doesn’t affect drivers using their cell phones hands-free for calling, GPS navigation, or playing music.
Penalties for Texting While Driving in Texas
Texting and driving in Texas is a misdemeanor, creating a criminal record. Drivers caught texting while driving can be charged a fine of $25 to $99, while repeat offenders can face charges of up to $200.
If you’re texting and driving and it causes serious injury or death to another person, you can face charges of up to $4,000 and spend up to a year in prison. You may also be charged with vehicular manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide. These both have the potential for costlier fines and longer prison sentences.
Texting and Driving Defenses
As mentioned, texting while driving in Texas is a misdemeanor, not a mere infraction or traffic ticket. Because it’s a criminal record, the state has to prove you were texting while driving, which can be challenging. Many people may only face charges when their distracted driving causes injury to another person.
Proving a Texting While Driving Infraction
Some say law enforcement needs to crack down on e-mobile device usage. However, it’s difficult to enforce something that cannot be seen, like drunk driving. If a driver is weaving all over the place on the road, chances are they are under the influence of something. They get pulled over and are charged.
Detecting a person who is texting and driving is not always as clear-cut as other driving infractions. Law enforcement must have hard evidence that a person was texting and driving. They must have a search warrant to check a cell phone for recent activity. For that, they need probable cause.
Is It Okay to Text at a Red Light in Texas?
According to new cell phone laws in Texas, all texting while driving in Texas is illegal, even when done at a red light. Drivers are still operating a vehicle when at a red light. If you need to look at or send a text message, pull off the road and come to a complete stop before picking up your phone.
Switch to hands-free technology like dictation functions if you need to send a message while driving. This keeps your hands away from your phone and your eyes on the road.
Parents can use apps to prevent their teens from texting while driving. Some apps include Do Not Disturb While Driving, DriveSafeMode, and Lifesaver. Consider researching app options to determine which one will work best for you and your child.
Financial Liability for Accidents Caused by Texting and Driving in Texas
Victims of an accident caused by texting and driving in Texas can sue for damages. Victims may be able to receive compensation for the following:
- Medical expenses related to an injury caused by the accident
- Cost of car repairs or other property damage
- Loss of income as the result of missed work due to an accident injury
- Emotional suffering, physical pain, or other non-monetary harm
Work With an Experienced Personal Injury Representative
Will cell phone bans reduce the number of preventable deaths in Texas due to texting and driving? This may be the case at some point, but it’s difficult to see how it could work since many drivers don’t consider phone use while driving any more dangerous than opening a bottle of water. Despite the deadly consequences, it may be a long, uphill battle to get people to stop texting while driving.
If you or a loved one has been harmed by a distracted driver, you may be able to seek financial compensation for the injuries you’ve sustained. Consider working with a personal injury representation firm like Lee, Gober & Reyna. We strive to treat all of our clients like family and will always have your best interest at heart. We go the extra mile to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation!
Contact Us Today
If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. The personal injury lawyers at Lee, Gober & Reyna can help you get that compensation. All consultations are free, and we work on a contingency basis. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.