To promote National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the Texas Department of Transportation has released new statistics regarding the continued rise and dangers of distracted driving.
“It only takes a second of looking down at your phone to cause a crash,” says Fort Bend County Constable Chad Norvell.
Distracted driving is number 2 on the state-wide list for traffic-related crash causes. In 2020, 1 in 5 crashes on Texas roadways were caused by distracted driving. As a result, 364 people died and 2,200 were seriously injured.
“Statistics show that if a driver’s attention is diverted from the road, it only takes three seconds for a serious or fatal crash to occur,” says Robert Henslee with Harris County Precinct 5, Constable Ted Heap’s Office.
“Distracted driving is a growing problem and poses a serious risk not just to the driver, but to everyone else who is on the road trying to safely get from point A to point B,” says Harris County Precinct 5 Constable Ted Heap.
Distracted driving is very personal to Precinct 5. In 2019, one of their motorcycle deputies suffered serious injuries when he was struck by a driver who was texting on the Westpark Tollway entrance ramp.
“Fortunately, after a grueling hospital stay and rehabilitation, he recovered but he could have been killed,” recalls Constable Heap.
“We all want to protect our loved ones and see them live happy and productive lives,” says Henslee. “Distracted driving steals these basic joys from us.”
April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is re-launching its web-based augmented reality game “Dart Those Distractions” to reinforce the importance of paying attention behind the wheel.
The game is designed to be played NOT while driving and the department hopes will further demonstrate the dangers of distracted driving.
“A serious or fatal crash can happen in an instant,” said TxDOT Executive Director James Bass. “If you’re distracted by your phone or doing anything else that takes your focus away from driving, you’re putting yourself, your passengers and everyone else on the road at risk.”
In 2019, distracted driving was responsible for 3,142 deaths in the United States alone.
Dangerous distractions include any activity that diverts the driver’s attention away from safely operating a vehicle. Research shows that regardless of whether a driver uses a voice-to-text program, hands-free device or a handheld one, the distraction will affect the driver’s ability to drive safely.
“Distracted driving crashes are 100 percent preventable. Driving should be your number one priority behind the wheel – everything else can wait,” says Bass.
Since September 1, 2017, it has been illegal to read, write or send a text while driving in Texas. Violators can face a fine up to $200.
Constable Ted Heap’s Office shares the top ten last words texted from drivers who were killed In an accident due to distracted driving.
“Don’t let these be the last words your loved ones read. You can help in the fight to end distracted driving … and save lives,” says Henslee. “Let’s do our part!”
TxDOT offers these tips to prevent distracted driving that can lead to a ticket, or worse, a crash:
TxDOT’s distracted driving awareness campaign is a key component of #EndTheStreakTX, a broader social media and word-of-mouth effort that encourages drivers to make safer choices while behind the wheel. Safe choices like wearing a seat belt, driving the speed limit, never texting and driving and never driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs help keep drivers safe.
November 7, 2000 was the last deathless day on Texas roadways.
#EndTheStreakTX asks all Texans to commit to driving safely to help end the streak of daily deaths on Texas roadways.
“Place your phone in the console and you can answer it later,” says Constable Norvell.
“I urge everyone, not just young drivers, to put their phones down when they're behind the wheel,” says Constable Heap. “We ask people who've been drinking not to drive for their own protection and so that other drivers can be safe. I ask those who've been texting while driving to put an end to that practice too, before they hurt themselves or someone else.”