That taking selfies while driving could be dangerous might seem obvious to many people. So why even bother writing about it? Many states, including Texas, regulate the use of cell phones while driving. But the regulations don’t cover every possible way a driver might be distracted by a cell phone.
Distracted driving is a significant contributor to motor vehicle accidents. Even a few seconds of a driver diverting attention from the road can have deadly consequences. With traffic fatalities and serious injury accidents on the rise, it’s as important as ever for drivers to appreciate the risks inherent in driving and use common sense while behind the wheel.
The Law Regarding Cell Phone Use While Driving in Texas
The Texas Transportation Code prohibits all drivers from using cell phones for sending or reading texts while driving. Drivers with learner’s permits are not allowed to use cell phones at all for the first six months they drive. Drivers under the age of 18 cannot use hand-held devices.
Exceptions to the law exist when a cell phone is being used in the following situations:
- As a navigation device
- In case of an emergency
Under the current law, adults aren’t specifically banned from using hand-held devices for something other than texting while driving unless they are in a school zone or driving a school bus. However, the Texas Legislature is considering a bill that would ban all hand-held use of cell phones while driving.
Known as Allie’s Way Law, named for a young girl who was struck and killed by a distracted driver in 2019, Senate Bill 41 expands the prohibition to all cell phone use while driving unless the device is hands-free or the user’s vehicle is stopped and outside the lane of travel.
Penalties for Cell Phone Use While Driving
A driver who reads, writes, or sends an electronic message while driving commits a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of between $25 and $99. A second offense results in a fine between $100 and $200. A driver who is texting and gets into a wreck resulting in death or serious bodily injury will face a fine of up to $4,000 and up to one year in jail in addition to any civil liability for the injuries or death.
Distracted Driving is a Big Problem
After a while, driving can become a very routine function. So routine, in fact, drivers can feel safe taking their attention off of driving and putting it on other things. According to the American Safety Council, drivers tend to overestimate their abilities to handle multiple tasks while driving, giving them a false sense of safety. In reality, the mind must try to switch back and forth between tasks and is unable to adequately focus on driving and anything else at the same time.
The Texas Department of Transportation reports that nearly one in six crashes on Texas roads in 2022 was caused by a distracted driver. In addition, 484 were people killed in crashes that involved distracted driving – an increase of 11% over 2021.
What Could Go Wrong When Taking Selfies While Driving?
Any driver who feels the need to take a selfie while driving must think it’s pretty important to get a new view of themselves out to the people who care. First, they will need to remove a hand from the steering wheel. Then, they will need to remove their eyes from the road in order to check out their reflection in the phone and make sure it’s as cool as it needs to be. Maybe a hair is out of place, or a collar is turned the wrong way. Maybe the background is all wrong. Now, the driver is holding the phone while looking into it and trying to arrange themselves for the perfect shot.
At best, the selfie process diverts a driver’s attention for several seconds, not counting reviews and retakes. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) says anything longer than a two-second distraction from driving tasks seriously increases the risk of crashing by making a driver less likely to:
- Be able to avoid a collision with a stopped vehicle
- Maintain proper lane position
- React quickly to unexpected circumstances
- Adequately perceive the driving environment
- Recognize important traffic signs and signals
How To Keep the Roads Safer for Everyone
Taking a selfie while driving is just plain dangerous and shouldn’t be done. If a selfie must be taken, a driver should pull off the roadway and stop the vehicle in a safe place. Holding a cell phone while driving and doing anything with it is going to take attention away from the road, and it only takes a couple of seconds for things to go very wrong.
Even if hand-held cell phone use is banned, it will still be legal for drivers to use hands-free phones while driving in Texas. Hands-free is considered safer than hand-held, but research shows that whether in your hand or mounted in your car, cell phone use distracts drivers from 50% of the driving landscape – a phenomenon known as ‘inattention blindness.’
The bottom line is that fewer car accidents happen when drivers focus on driving. The Texas Department of Insurance recommends turning cell phones off while driving. If cell phones are used hands-free while driving, taking care of any programming before getting behind the wheel will help prevent distractions while on the road.
Motorists may be warned of potential distracted drivers by watching out for certain driving behaviors. Observing actions such as drifting across lane lines, inconsistent speeds, or drivers clearly not paying attention to the road may all be indications of distracted driving. Give a suspected distracted driver enough space so that a collision can be avoided. A distracted driver who poses a danger to other motorists can be reported by calling 311.
Get Your Life Back After Being Injured by a Distracted Driver
Distracted driving is a serious threat to personal safety on the roads in Texas. If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, the car accident lawyers at Farah Law can help. With extensive courtroom experience and aggressive advocacy, Farah Law has recovered millions of dollars on behalf of our injured clients. When we take your case, your rights and your life are our priorities. Contact us today.