If you were asked ten years ago to imagine an activity we as a society could invent that would cause more motor vehicle accidents and more fatalities than drunk driving one would be hard to believe what it would be.
That, however, is what we have done with the smartphone and text messaging. Business people rushing from meeting to meeting, mothers and fathers driving their children to and from activities, and high school and college-age young adults, some with less than one year of driving experience are all freely talking on and texting with their smartphone devices as if they are at no additional risk.
Almost 90% of all young drivers use their cell phones while driving and most are dangerously distracted.
According to The National Safety Council around 25% of all motor vehicle accidents are caused by texting and driving and using a cell phone accounts for 1.6 million crashes and 330,000 injuries each year. Texting is the leading cause of distracted driving in 78% of the 421,000 distracted driver accidents.
As recently as 2016 a driver is about six times more likely to have an accident while texting than if the driver was legally intoxicated. Reacting to a text message or notification takes a driver’s eyes off the road for at least 5 seconds while it takes only 3 seconds for a traffic accident to occur.
At 55 mph a driver travels about 100 yards during the 5 seconds it takes to glance at their smartphone and read a one-line text message.
Young Adults are Particularly Vulnerable
Almost 90% of all teens bring their phone to school and use them in the car coming from school. Every day 11 teens are killed in texting-related motor vehicle accidents.
The odds of a texting teen having an accident is four times greater than an adult. Most teens do not agree that they are putting their lives in danger by texting while driving. Teens report veering off of the road or veering into the oncoming lane of traffic approximately 10% of the time they are driving.
In a town with 500 high school drivers, that is 50 drivers per day that swerve off of the road because of texting, a staggering statistic. Police are pulling over people driving recklessly and veering off the road or into the other lane with increasing frequency, suspecting that the driver is drunk only to find a sober, yet texting driver.
What is Being Done?
As of August, 2017 a Texas statewide ban on texting while driving we be in effect and enforced. Law enforcement will be looking for drivers whose heads are down or veer out of their lane as an indication they may be texting.
A Texas driver can still text while stopped at a red light and use GPS navigation and listen to music. The penalty for texting while driving is $99 and increases to $200 for a second offense.
Police officers also now inquire about cell phone use in every reported accident in Texas. Insurance companies will follow in rating costs of auto policies if a driver has a history of cell use in an accident or a ticket for texting.
Commercial Drivers and Texting
Professional truckers are restricted using cell phones while driving a commercial vehicle. A rule applicable to motor carriers and drivers restricts a commercial driver while driving a big rig from holding a mobile device to make a call or dialing by pressing more than a single button. Commercial motor vehicle drivers can only use a cell phone with hands-free operation. Texting is forbidden.
Fines for commercial motor vehicles are substantially higher than those involving regular drivers in Texas. Further, the driver can be disqualified for multiple violations.