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Houston is trying to do something about the epidemic of crashes due to distracted driving in Texas. In 2011 there were more than 81,000 distracted driving related crashes in Texas. Over 350 of the crashes involved fatalities. Data shows that over 30% of accidents on the road are caused by distracted driving. In Texas, approximately 20% of all fatalities are distracted driving accidents that could have been prevented. Unfortunately, even though we have known for quite some time that cell phone usage and texting is dangerous while driving, people continue to exhibit this behavior.
In 2011, the U. S. Department of Transportation decided to ban all handhold cell phone usage by bus drivers and any type of commercial driver including truck drivers. Texas, however, has only been able to ban handheld cell phone usage and texting for bus drivers and new drivers. They were also able to ban texting for those driving through a school zone. While these laws are a noble start, the data supports a ban on texting and hand held devices for all drivers on all roads. This endeavor might take a bit of effort. In the meantime, Texas has been using various media techniques since April 2012 to help educate the population and increase awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. State Farm and Clear Channel are partnering with the government by providing funds and media outlets for this campaign. The campaign has been named: Talk. Text. Crash.
Over 50% of all drivers in the United States continue to use their cell phone in various ways while driving. This is in spite of the same drivers knowing the shocking statistics of distracted driving accidents due to cell phone usage. Unfortunately, most drivers overestimate their abilities while driving, causing them to exhibit dangerous behaviors. Texting, for example, keeps a driver’s eyes off the road for at least five seconds. If one is driving 55 mph on a highway, five seconds of driving with one’s eyes off the road means the driver will drive the length of a football field blind. Trucks are especially dangerous when their drivers text. A very high percentage of truck accidents involve fatalities because of their lack of ability to brake quickly. While texting automobile drivers are eight times more likely to crash and drivers using a cell phone are four times more likely to crash, a distracted truck driver is a whopping 23 times more likely to crash than a non-distracted truck driver. Truck drivers especially, need to understand how dangerous their behavior on the road can be when they decide to use their handheld devices.
Although there is still much resistance in Texas to a ban on these devices, hopefully the Talk. Text. Crash. Campaign will aid in changing driver behavior and help the legislature pass more stringent bans on distracted driving.
- Texas Department of Transportation News release, April 2, 2012.