Jim Adler | The Tough, Smart Lawyer
By Jim Adler July 24, 2015

Do you want to boost a cause that saves lives? Help spread awareness in Texas and stop texting while driving, talking on the phone while driving or any other form of distracted driving. Let’s raise awareness in Texas! April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Distracted Driving isn’t just Texting While Driving

Distracted driving is much more than just texting while driving, although that’s one of the biggest contributors.

So what is distracted driving? Distracted driving includes the practice of engaging in another activity while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. There are three main forms of distracted driving that can aid in the injury or death of victims who suffer in a car crash. We’ve indicated them below.

The Three types of Distracted Driving

  1. Visual Driving Distractions: This includes taking your eyes off the road and multitasking for whatever reason, resulting in losing awareness of what is in front of you.
  2. Manual Driving Distractions: This could involve your foot slipping off the brake pedal, but usually is related to taking your hands off the steering wheel, and/or driving with an object in your hand (such as a smartphone).
  3. Cognitive Driving Distractions: When your mind starts to wander off you can become mentally distracted behind the wheel. This could occur due to talking to passengers, dealing with high stress and work-related issues or even becoming distracted by your radio’s audio.

The problem worsens when more than one of these types of distractions are combined. Any legal professional or car accident lawyer will tell you that texting while driving remains one of the deadliest causes of vehicle accidents. This is because texting takes on a combination of visual, manual and cognitive distraction. That’s why these incidents can be so dangerous, causing much bodily harm and resulting in major vehicle wrecks.

Common Causes of Distracted Driving

There are several causes related to why drivers become distracted. These could include eating while driving, drinking while driving, adjusting the radio dial while driving, putting on makeup while driving and even shaving while driving. Voice dictation technology is yet another driving distraction.

But the most common cause of distracted driving these days is the historically recent kind involving cell phones and other mobile devices. By the millions, today’s drivers use cell phones to make or receive calls, to send or receive texts, to check emails and to surf the Internet — all while driving a large vehicle at often fast speeds through complex traffic.

Driving safely should be a motorist’s primary obligation, responsibility and duty. As they say, “Safety first.” But millions of today’s motorists place mobile devices first and give safe driving a backseat when it comes to their attention.

April Is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

To combat this trend, the National Safety Council and other agencies are promoting April’s National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. One such agency is the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

TxDOT urges Texas motorists to drive without any distractions. That means no texting while driving, mobile phone calls while driving or any other type of distracted driving while behind the wheel of a vehicle. That means none. Zero tolerance. Eyes on the road. Hands on the wheel.

Safety first!

But it’s a big battle. According to Distraction.gov, a federal website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, around 660,000 American drivers are using mobile devices while driving at any given daylight moment.

Distracted driving, the site says, “has become a deadly epidemic on America’s roadways.”

How deadly? According to the National Safety Council, in 2013 more than 3,100 persons were killed and over 420,000 were injured — sometimes critically — in traffic accidents involving distracted driving.

Though distracted driving crosses all age ranges, most endangered are young and inexperienced drivers. The inexperience with teenage drivers is certainly one of biggest dangers for car accidents from texting while driving. At least 10% of all distracted driving collisions involve a teen driver, with teens having the biggest proportion of distracted drivers out of every age group, the NSC says.

Even so, everyone of any age who tends to use a cell phone while driving can help. That’s why the U.S. DOT is campaigning every month, not just during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, for people to “hang up and drive” — and to be safe.

Already, federal law prohibits commercial drivers from using cell phones or texting while driving on the job, and many states and municipalities also have joined the cause.

Texas Distracted Driving Laws

Texas is one of just five states which lack a law banning all drivers from texting at the wheel. Former Gov. Rick Perry vetoed such a bill, saying he didn’t want to “micromanage the behavior of adults.” In early 2015 another bill is poised for passage in the Texas Legislature, at which point it, too, will be subject to a possible governor’s veto, this time by Greg Abbott.

But no governor can veto municipal laws, and these have been enacted across Texas to combat distracted driving. At least 40 Texas cities and towns have passed laws banning texting while driving, including Corpus Christi, Amarillo, El Paso, Arlington, Grand Prairie, Denton, Bellaire, Conroe, Galveston, Missouri City, Tomball and West University Place.

Among cities with the most recent distracted driving laws are Austin and San Antonio — which went even farther. Those cities passed laws prohibiting all drivers from using handheld mobile devices for any purpose while driving, not just texting.

Such laws went into effect on Jan 1, 2015. Since then each city has issued thousands of tickets to offenders while trying to educate motorists to change.

San Antonio issued a total of about 3,000 tickets and warnings through mid-March. After a one-month warning period in January, Austin Police issued around 1,000 citations to distracted drivers through mid-March.

Unfortunately, even new laws in Austin and San Antonio won’t be enough to stop the slaughter and personal injury occurring from major car accidents caused by distracted drivers — even if every driver obeyed them.

Why? The NSC says numerous studies reveal hands-free devices are as dangerous as handheld devices. These studies show that cell phone conversations take drivers’ minds off the road, whether they’re conducted via a hands-free device or a handheld device.

Either way, it’s estimated that talking on the phone can cause a driver to fail noting as much as half of what’s going on around them, such as traffic’s movements, changing traffic lights and the appearance of pedestrians.

At least Texas has some state laws limiting cell phone use while driving.

For instance, Texas cell phone laws hold that all drivers may not text or use handheld devices while driving in school zones — provided signs are posted to that effect, which not all districts can afford.

Texas also prohibits drivers with a learner’s permit from using handheld devices during their first six months of driving. Texas drivers younger than 18 also are banned from using any wireless communication device while driving. And Texas school bus drivers may not use a cell phone at the wheel if any children are in the vehicle.

Thus, the battle continues — and it should continue long after April’s National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

That battle is vital. Without it, thousands more Americans will die, often for a text or a call which easily could have waited.

Jim Adler & Associates Encourages Awareness on Distracted Driving

If someone in your family was injured by a distracted driver, notify Jim Adler & Associates at once. We’ll provide you with a free case review. Then we’ll advise you about a possible car accident lawsuit or settlement for your family’s distracted driving injury.

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