cell phone use while driving

Whether you’re running errands or just enjoying a Sunday drive, getting behind the wheel can be extremely dangerous if you come in contact with a distracted driver. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2017 distracted drivers killed 3,166 people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) divides distracted driving into three categories: visual (taking your eyes off the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel), and cognitive (taking your mind off the task of driving). Texting is one of the most dangerous activities one can undertake while driving, as it involves all three types of distracted driving. Drivers that text while driving take their eyes off the road for an average of five full seconds – the equivalent of driving the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour while blindfolded. Other common distracted driving activities include eating or drinking, talking to passengers, personal grooming, or adjusting something in the car like the radio or GPS.

While everyone likes to think they would never drive so carelessly, any driver can be susceptible to distractions while driving. Certain types of distractions are more common in certain age groups. While texting and driving is often thought to mostly affect teenagers, a Pew Research Center poll found adults are actually more likely to text and drive than teenagers. While teenagers are slightly less likely to text and drive, they do generate the highest number of distraction-related fatalities.

Although cell phone use while driving is prohibited in many areas of the U.S., the regulation of in-car touchscreens is an entirely different issue yet to be addressed. Not only is the problem being mostly ignored these days, but instead, automakers are in fact encouraged to incorporate touchscreens into more motor vehicles. Many basic functions, such as radio and air conditioning controls, now require drivers to take their eyes off the road to adjust. Research has recognized touchscreens can be distracting for drivers of any age; however, when senior drivers try to engage with the technology, they take their eyes off the road for much longer periods of time to try to figure things out.

Drivers should obviously do what they can to minimize distraction wherever they are, but in some places, it is important to be extra cautious. For example, the conditions of driving in a work zone are already hazardous, with narrow lanes, debris, heavy machinery operating, and humans standing on either side of the road. When you factor in a driver taking his or her eyes off of the road and losing focus, the situation quickly becomes more disastrous for everyone. School zones and anywhere a large number of pedestrians are present are other places in which drivers must be vigilant.

When a driver engages in a distracted behavior while driving, they put themselves, any passengers, and other motorists at risk. Drivers should always put their phones and devices away or in a safe driving mode when operating a vehicle. If GPS is needed, destinations should be entered before the trip begins. If a driver needs to use their device, they should pull over or ask a passenger for assistance.

The sad fact is distracted driving can be just as life threatening as drunk driving. In 2015, there were more than 290,000 injuries caused by drunk drivers and 391,000 injuries caused by distracted driving – or 34% more injuries caused by distracted driving than drunk driving. While the actions are different, there are many similarities between the two. Both drunk and distracted driving cause a loss of focus on the road, and both have potentially fatal consequences. Researchers recommend implementing stricter laws and policies for cell phones while driving, as well as better public education surrounding the issue.

Car accidents caused by distracted drivers can cause devastating injuries like:

  • neck and back injuries
  • traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
  • paralysis
  • broken bones
  • lacerations
  • whiplash
  • death

Severe injuries could require months or years of additional surgeries, medications, physical therapy, and/or specialized medical equipment. In addition to the cost of medical treatment, many victims are unable to go back to work and suffer lost wages. Drivers who cause an accident because they were distracted, should be held accountable for their negligence.

Frequently Asked Questions About Distracted Driving

What is Texas distracted driving law?

In Texas, distracted driving is considered any activity that takes your attention away from driving. This can include tasks such as texting on a cell phone, talking on the phone, eating or drinking, putting on makeup, reading, changing the radio station, shaving, watching a video, or programming a GPS system. While many of these distractions are not illegal, they present significant hazards and should be minimized or completely avoided while driving. Texas state laws regarding distracted driving focus mainly on the risk of texting while driving, however, the Texas Department of Transportation states that, “the safest policy is to drive now and use your cell phone later. If you must make a phone call or send a text, pull over. Otherwise wait until you reach your destination to use the phone.”

Is texting and driving illegal in Texas?

Texting while driving is illegal everywhere in Texas. This law was passed in 2017 and made Texas the 47th state to ban texting while driving. Some cities are more restrictive and ban all cellphone use while driving. The current distracted driving law prohibits the following:

  • “Electronic messaging,” which includes texting, emailing, and instant messaging using a cell phone
  • Drivers under the age of 18 from using any type of wireless communication devices while driving
  • Drivers over the age of 18 with learner’s permits from using wireless communication devices in their first six months of driving
  • School bus drivers from using cell phones while driving whenever children are present
  • Drivers from using handheld communication devices in school crossing zones
Can you text at a red light in Texas?

Your car does not have to be moving for you to receive a ticket for texting while driving in Texas. Even when stopped at a red light, you are still operating your vehicle and should not use your cell phone. Texting while stopped at a red light is still very dangerous. You may not realize that the light has turned green and could be rear-ended if you stay stopped. Or, if the car in front of you moves forward a little bit, and you see them out of the corner of your eye while texting on your phone, you may put your foot on the gas and could rear-end someone thinking the light turned green. Never text while driving, even when stopped at a red light.

What are the types of distracted driving?

There are three main types of driving distractions that most drivers will participate in at some point:

  • Visual – taking your eyes off the road ahead and looking at something else
  • Manual – taking your hands off the wheel to use a device or pick something up
  • Cognitive – when your mind focuses on something other than driving and the road ahead

Some driving distractions can be categorized into multiple of the above types. Texting while driving, for example, encompasses all three. When texting and driving, your hands are on your phone, your mind is determining how to respond to the message you received, and your eyes are on your phone. These types of distractions are the most dangerous as they completely take your focus off the road ahead and prevent you from reacting to any sudden changes in traffic.

What are distracted driving statistics?

In the United States, each year distracted drivers cause over 390,000 injuries and nearly 3,500 deaths. At any given moment during daylight hours, almost four percent of all drivers in the United States are using a handheld cell phone. While that percentage may seem low, cell phones are not the only distractions out there. About one in five victims of fatal car accidents involving a distracted driver were not even in a vehicle. These victims were riding their bicycles, walking on a sidewalk, or were otherwise outside of a car and were still killed by a distracted driver.

How many deaths are caused by distracted driving?

Unfortunately, distracted driving is near the top of the list for causing car accidents in Texas. In 2020 alone, there were 364 deaths and 2,200 seriously injured victims of distracted driving car accidents in our state. Currently, distracted driving causes one out of every five car accidents statewide. Countrywide, eight people are killed in car crashes that involve a distracted driver every day.

Houston Distracted Driving Accident Attorney

After a distracted driving car accident, victims can be overwhelmed by the financial burden of medical treatment. An experienced Houston distracted driving accident attorney at Adame Garza LLP can analyze the details of your situation and help you obtain full compensation for your injuries. Call us today for a free consultation to discuss your case. We work on a contingency fee basis, meaning there is no upfront cost for working with us and you won’t owe us anything unless you obtain compensation.