Texas & New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyers

The Real Dangers of Distracted Driving

For many of us, driving has become very routine. We drive to and from work by the same route every day. We drive the kids to school. We stop at the same places for groceries and takeout. We become so familiar with our driving experience that we may take our safety for granted and misdirect our attention from the roadway to other activities while driving.

Distracted driving is a problem in Texas and across the United States. It is a known contributing factor to numerous injury and fatality accidents. Driver distraction may actually have an even bigger impact on driving behavior than is currently known because it can be hard to prove unless admitted or witnessed.

What Can Happen When a Driver Gets Distracted

A distracted driver is not paying enough attention to the business of driving. When drivers don’t pay enough attention to driving, they are not as aware of driving conditions as they need to be. No matter how familiar a driver is with a route of travel, there are unexpected circumstances that can arise very quickly and require immediate responses to maintain safety. Even a slight diversion of attention can mean precious seconds of reaction time lost.

Texas leads the nation in fatal traffic accidents. On average, 12 people lose their lives on Texas roads every day. There has not been a deathless day on Texas roadways since November 7, 2000.

There were 4,481 traffic fatalities in Texas in the most recent year of reporting, according to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), and over 15,000 serious injury accidents. There were 484 people killed in crashes involving distracted driving – an 11% increase over the prior year figures. Houston had more traffic crashes than any other Texas city. Close to 1,600 people were seriously injured, and 323 lost their lives.

Distracting Activities People Engage in While Driving

Any activity that takes a driver’s attention off of driving can be a distraction. Someone who is driving to the hospital after just finding out their child has been in a serious accident may not have safe driving top of their mind because they are preoccupied with worrying about their child. Mental distractions are probably common and a matter of degree when it comes to interfering with the ability to drive safely.

The kinds of distractions that often lead to serious and fatal accidents typically involve the hands or the eyes. When the hands come off the wheel, or the eyes come off the road, things can go wrong quickly. Common activities drivers engage in that can be dangerously distracting include:

  • Adjusting anything inside the vehicle, such as the radio, sunroof, mirrors, and / or navigation system
  • Interacting with passengers
  • Looking for something inside the vehicle
  • Staring at something of interest outside the vehicle
  • Eating something messy
  • Being on a call with someone – even if hands-free
  • Texting or reading a text – even if hands-free

Distracted Driving Laws Restrict the Use of Handheld Devices

Using a handheld device while driving is such a blatant distraction that most states have laws restricting the use of handheld devices while driving. It is illegal in Texas to use a handheld device to send or receive text messages while driving unless it can be done hands-free. However, it is not illegal to use a handheld device at all while driving unless the driver is under 18, in a school zone, or is a school bus driver.

Therefore, most drivers may still hold a cell phone, leaving only one hand on the wheel and attempting to push the buttons with a thumb while glancing between the road and the phone. If a handheld device is being used for navigation, it is not illegal to punch in coordinates and then look at the screen to figure out where you need to go.

Even if not illegal, using a handheld device while driving does take a driver’s attention (and eyes) off the road. And it doesn’t take but a split second for circumstances to develop that the driver is then unable to safely respond to.

Texas’ Goal of Eliminating Fatal Traffic Accidents

Texas doesn’t want people dying or seriously injured on its roadways. Vision Zero is a campaign aimed at eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries. The idea was born in Europe and has been making its way into American cities since the 1990s. TxDOT has set the Vision Zero goal of reducing the number of traffic fatalities in the state by 50% by 2035 and eliminating 100% of traffic-related fatalities by 2050.

Cities and other localities are joining in this mission. In 2019, the City of Houston issued an executive order stating its own ambitious Vision Zero goal. This order indicates the city’s commitment to eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries on its streets by 2030.

How To Avoid Distractions and Stay Safe on The Roads

The Texas Strategic Highway Safety Plan for years 2022-2027 recognizes distracted driving as a significant contributing factor to car crashes and is committed to reducing the incidences of distracted driving through:

  • Education
  • High visibility law enforcement techniques
  • Better engineered roadways
  • Use of technology

TxDOT’s annual safety campaign Talk. Text. Crash. attempts to increase public awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and offers the following tips to avoid distractions and stay safe on the roads.

  • Give driving your full attention.
  • Pull off the road completely and stop before making a call or texting.
  • Put your phone out of reach, turn it off, or use a ‘do not disturb’ app while driving.
  • Make a commitment and let everyone know you do not make or respond to calls or texts while driving.
  • Keep in mind anything that takes your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road is a distraction and stay focused.

Where To Turn for Help After a Distracted Driving Accident

It used to be that the ability to multi-task was thought to be some kind of superpower. Yet, it turns out the mind really cannot focus on more than one task and must rapidly switch back and forth between tasks. According to Psychology Today, attempts at doing more than one task at a time lead to poorer performance of all tasks.

At Farah Law, we know the value of undivided attention and how it improves performance. We limit our legal practice to representing Texas car accident victims who have been wrongfully injured and limit the number of cases we handle so we can commit the necessary time and attention to the needs of each client. Experience the benefits of focused advocacy. Contact Farah Law for a free consultation today.