Distracted driving is becoming an all-too-common bad habit amongst Houston drivers. On average, the Houston Fire Department is called out to more than 30,000 car accidents and transport nearly 8,000 people to the hospital each year. Of the Houston car accidents involving fatalities, distracted driving caused 20%. The results of an accident caused by distracted driving can have a lifetime of consequences for all victims involved. If you are a victim of a car accident involving a distracted driver, contact the Houston car accident lawyers at Dax F. Garza, P.C. to learn more about how we can help you recover financial compensation for your damages.

What Is Distracted Driving?

Anything that can take your eyes off the road or attention away from driving is considered a distraction. Distractions can include talking or texting on a cell phone, eating or drinking, turning to talk to people in the car, trying to use the radio, entertainment, or navigation systems, doing your makeup, or anything that can take your hands off the wheel or eyes off the road.

Texting while driving is one of the most common and deadliest driving distractions. Just sending or reading a short text can take a driver’s eyes off the road for five seconds. If driving on the highway at 60 miles per hour, that person will have gone over 100 yards, the length of an entire football field, with their eyes on their phone. Anything can happen in those few seconds – cars suddenly stopping, a car swerving in front of traffic, a piece of debris falling off a truck, etc. Just reading or sending one text message could make the driver miss these changes and cause an accident. No one can drive safely unless they keep their full attention on the road. Any non-driving activity creates a potential distraction and increases the risk of a car accident.

There are three main types of driving distractions:

  • Visual: A visual distraction takes the driver’s eyes off the road. This would include reading or writing a text message, looking at the entertainment system, turning around to check on a child, etc.
  • Manual: A manual distraction takes the driver’s hands off the wheel. This would include eating or drinking in the car, grooming (putting on makeup or brushing hair), reaching for an item behind the seat, etc.
  • Cognitive: A cognitive distraction takes the driver’s mind off the task of driving. The driver may be daydreaming, talking to someone on the phone via Bluetooth, or have children in the back crying or screaming.

Why Is Distracted Driving So Dangerous?

All three types of distracted driving are very dangerous. Any attention taken away from the road puts that vehicle and all vehicles and pedestrians around them at risk. In 2018, one in five car crash fatality victims involving a distracted driver were not in vehicles at all. They were walking, riding their bikes, or otherwise outside of a car. Distracted drivers not only put themselves in danger, but they also risk the lives of those around them.

Distracted driving significantly reduces the time a driver has to react to changes around them. While driving, many things change suddenly – a car abruptly brakes, a person enters the intersection, a bicyclist makes a turn without signaling – and if a driver is texting and driving or eating a hamburger, they may not see that change take place. In 2018, over 2,800 people were killed and almost 400,000 people were injured in car crashes involving a distracted driver. Statistics from State Farm Insurance indicate that drivers who text while driving are six times more likely to get into a car accident. And according to the Texas Transportation Institute’s Center for Transportation Safety, if a driver is texting while driving it doubles their reaction time. Those drivers are also 11 times more likely to miss an indicator signal light if they are texting. These statistics do not paint a good picture of those drivers who actively make the choice to drive while distracted.

Who Is Most at Risk of Distracted Driving?

In 2018, young adults and teen drivers made up 25% of the distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes. Teens who are learning to drive, ages 15-19, are more likely to be distracted than drivers aged 20 and up. Nine percent of all teenage drivers who died in car accidents in 2018 were killed in an accident that involved distracted driving. This terrible habit is killing young drivers at a much higher rate and that rate is only increasing.

Surprisingly, the next age group of Texas drivers who are most likely to drive while distracted are adults over the age of 45. They are not alone, though, as more than 60 percent of American drivers use their phones during part of their daily commute. The drivers with the highest phone usage rates while driving spend nearly-one third of their driving time engaged with their phones. Unlike drunk driving, there is no specific test that can be given to determine whether a driver was using their phone at the time of an accident. Having a reliable attorney by your side will help you navigate this complicated process.

Texas Distracted Driving Efforts

The Texas Department of Transportation (TXDoT) created the Talk. Text. Crash. campaign to raise awareness of distracted driving and the risks it poses to Texas drivers. TXDoT has joined forces with AT&T’s It Can Wait campaign that aims to tell people to wait to answer a text or call until they have stopped driving.

Texas became the 47th state to ban texting while driving in 2017 – late to the game compared to many other states. The distracted driving law prohibits the following while driving:

  • “Electronic messaging,” including texting, emailing, and instant messaging
  • Drivers under the age of 18 from using wireless communication devices
  • Drivers over the age of 18 with learner’s permits from using handheld cell phones in their first six months of driving
  • School bus operators from using cell phones while driving whenever children are present
  • All drivers from using handheld devices in school crossing zones

Technically, statewide, handheld cell phone use is still legal. However, over 60 Texas cities have enacted their own laws that make it illegal.

What Do I Do if a Distracted Driver Hits Me?

Getting into a car accident with a distracted driver is frustrating and leaves victims wondering what to do next. By hiring an attorney who is well versed in distracted driving cases, you can have peace of mind and can be guided through the legal process safely. Houstonians have a lot of road to cover, but no one should fear daily life on the road because of distracted drivers. If you or a loved one is a victim of a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the Houston car accident lawyers at Dax F. Garza, P.C. to learn more about how we can help you recover financial compensation for your damages.

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