Distracted Driving in Texas: A Man-Made Disaster

Any Houston auto accident lawyer will tell you that distracted driving has reached epidemic levels in the state of Texas. The number of traffic accidents in the state caused by distracted driving is high and getting higher. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, in 2013, an astounding 94,943 accidents were attributed to drivers who were paying attention to their cell phones or some other distraction instead of the road. In 2014, that number was even higher: There were 100,825 such accidents, which resulted in over 3,200 serious injuries and 468 deaths. Why are so many of us so reckless? People who would never think of getting behind the wheel while drunk think nothing of talking on the phone or texting while they drive. Perhaps it is overconfidence. If you are like most people, when you first started driving, it seemed extremely difficult. There were so many things to remember and so many factors to keep in mind. Over time, however, you got used to the activity, and it started to feel like it came naturally. One study by Allstate found that nearly two-thirds of Americans rate themselves as “excellent” or “very good” drivers. Perhaps we have gotten a little too comfortable with driving, and that leads us to think we can safely multi-task while we do it. Whatever causes that belief, it could not be more wrong. Part of the problem is the failure of drivers to recognize how dangerous distracted driving is. There is also the issue of products that disingenuously imply they are safer than traditional cell phones, such as “hands-free” headsets, earpieces and speakerphones. Regardless of whether or not a driver is using his or her hands, such devices pose a serious risk when used on the road. That is because the problem is not your hands being distracted but rather your brain. Scientific studies have revealed that when listening to or talking on the phone, activity in the part of your brain that detects moving objects decreases by as much as one-third. When you talk on the phone, your field of vision actually narrows, and you miss seeing up to 50 percent of what is going on around you. We normally do not even notice this decreased awareness, but it is plain to see how it can severely impair our ability to drive. Despite the science showing how dangerous it is to drive while distracted, Texas remains one of the few states that has not outlawed texting while driving. Bills to ban it have been opposed on multiple grounds. Some have cited a concern for individual freedom while others declare that such laws are simply not enforceable. It should be noted, though, that many Texas cities, including several in the Houston area, have passed ordinances against it on their own. There are also some statewide limitations, such as a rule forbidding the use of handheld devices while driving in a school zone. As a result, it is hard to know what is and is not permitted in any given place. You should consider that another reason why it is best simply not to use your phone at all when you are driving. Even if distracted driving is not against the law in an area, it can still cause a driver to be held legally responsible for an accident. A Houston car accident lawyer can help inform you of your rights if you have been in an accident as a result of someone’s distracted driving. Because the law is so complex, it takes a professional, such as a Houston truck accident attorney, to keep on top of the latest traffic rules.