Using a cell phone while driving is a hotly contested issue, with many advocacy groups launching anti-texting and anti-talking campaigns that are on par with anti-drunk driving campaigns around the country. And all this lobbying has gotten these groups somewhere.
In June of this year, Texas governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that makes it illegal to text while driving throughout the state. Prior to this, Texas was one of only 4 states with no such regulations on the books. Once the law goes into effect on September 1, drivers who are caught texting behind the wheel can face a fine of $99 for a first-time offense, and $200 for a repeat offense.
Cell Phone Use and Distracted Driving
Whether a person is talking on the phone, using a GPS system, or texting a friend, using a mobile device while driving distracts a driver from the task at hand. And based on the data surrounding distracted driving, bills like the one Texas just passed actually seem LONG overdue:
- According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,477 people were killed and another 391,000 were injured in 2015 alone in traffic accidents caused by distracted driving
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports that distraction-related accidents cause 8 deaths and 1,161 injuries on a daily basis
- Researchers have actually identified that 50 minutes of talking on the phone per month results in a 5.59-fold increased risk of an accident occurring
Despite these statistics, and the many more like them that have been compiled by researchers, the FCC also reports that at any given minute, 660,000 people are using a mobile or similar electronic device while operating a motor vehicle. Such rampant device use means that people are really failing to understand the dangers associated with messing with their phones while behind the wheel.
So Where’s the Danger?
While hundreds of thousands of drivers apparently think that they’re totally fine using their phone while operating their cars, the reality is that interacting with a cell phone, or any other device, is an extremely risky move on a number of fronts:
- It takes your eyes off the road—Research has shown that drivers who text while driving spend notably less time scanning the road ahead of them, meaning that should traffic conditions change suddenly or an unexpected object find its way into the road, the driver will have less time and be less prepared to respond to the hazard.
- Slower braking time—Especially when traveling at higher speeds, drivers need every second they can to come to a safe stop should a hazard appear in the roadway or if traffic slows. If a driver is not paying attention and therefore doesn’t see a potential hazard the second it appears, they lose valuable braking time and may find that they don’t have the ability to safely slow down before colliding with the vehicle or other object in their path.
- You’ve only got so much brain power—Even if your eyes are on the road, there’s only so much your brain can do at one time, and sometimes, your brain needs to be focused COMPLETELY on driving. If traffic is stop-and-go, if weather conditions are unfavorable, or if you’re just traveling a route that’s unfamiliar to you, any distractions could result in clumsy vehicle control, erratic actions, and ultimately, driver errors that lead to accidents.
Sooooo, Is It Worth It?
Yeah, we get that driving can be boring and you’re looking for some form of entertainment. Or maybe things were crazy at work and you can’t imagine waiting till you get home to tell someone about it. Are these really good enough reasons for you to risk being involved in a car accident?
Not only does using a mobile device increase your risk of being in an accident in the first place, it also increases the likelihood of an accident being a serious one. Additionally, drivers who do cause an accident due to cell phone use risk suffering a number of consequences and penalties beyond any fines that could be imposed by state cell phone laws, including:
- Serious physical injury—Drivers not only risk suffering serious injuries themselves in an accident, but also inflicting injuries on other drivers, bicyclists, or pedestrians who may be involved in a wreck. In the most serious of cases, these accidents can lead to death.
- Automobile damage—High impact crashes, like those that frequently result from distracted driving accidents, can easily leave a vehicle damaged or totaled.
- Higher insurance premiums—Drivers who cause these types of accidents will almost certainly see their insurance premiums skyrocket, and find themselves considered a risky driver by insurers.
- Criminal penalties—Depending on the laws of the state or municipality, and the circumstances of an accident, drivers could find themselves facing a number of very serious criminal penalties, including manslaughter.
- Lost driving privileges—Drivers who cause accidents that result in serious vehicular damage or physical injuries could find their driving privileges revoked as part of their court-ordered penalties.
With all of these potential penalties and consequences on the table, is taking that phone call on the drive home really worth it?
Sadly, you can be the most responsible motorist in Texas, but that might not spare you from the stupid mistakes of another driver. If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident caused by a driver who was using their cell phone behind the wheel, it’s time to make sure they’re held accountable for this carelessness and stupidity. Contact Chenkin Law Firm at (800) 721-7472 for the aggressive, dedicated support you need.