Texas’ High Traffic Fatality Rate Could Owe to Lax Texting Laws

A recent nationwide audit found that, while traffic fatalities are declining in Texas, the state remains one of the most dangerous for drivers. 3,028 people died on Texas roads in 2010. That averages out to 1.29 traffic fatalities per 100 million miles driven in the state, about 17 percent higher than the national average of 1.1.

Some Department of Transportation officials blame the state’s high fatality rate on its dearth of distracted driving laws. Distracted driving remains a major problem on Texas roadways even as the state makes significant gains in seat belt usage, vehicle safety and drunken driving enforcement.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines distracted driving as, “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the task of driving.” NHTSA cites eating and drinking, talking to passengers, reading a map or adjusting the radio as examples. However, it is cellphone use and texting while driving that have garnered the most attention in recent years.

According to NHTSA, drivers using hand-held devices are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. 18 percent of auto accidents nationwide were attributed to distracted driving in 2010, leading to over 3000 fatalities.

Limited distracted driving measures in Texas

Texas officials recognize the dangers of texting while driving, running public service announcements that encourage drivers to put their phones away. These campaigns raise awareness of the issue but some argue that they lack teeth without accompanying state law.

Last year, Governor Rick Perry vetoed a bill that would have made it illegal to send or read text messages while driving.

“I support measures that make our roads safer for everyone, but House Bill 242 is a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults,” Perry said. His opinion does not appear to be common among governors. 39 states currently ban text messaging for all drivers and many have gone as far as banning the use of all handheld devices while driving.

Texas does ban some drivers from texting and talking on cellphones. The state bars:

  • All cellphone use, whether handheld or hands-free, by bus drivers
  • All cellphone use by novice drivers (those who have had a drivers’ license for less than a year)
  • Texting while driving by bus drivers
  • Texting while driving by novice drivers
  • All hand-held cellphone use and texting in school zones

Whether a texting ban eventually makes it to the books in Texas, motorists are expected to drive responsibly to avoid causing accidents. If you or a loved one has been injured because of another driver’s negligence, it is wise to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. They may be able to work with you to get your life back on track and help you pursue compensation for your injuries.

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