Campaign Calls Attention to Problem of Distracted Driving in Texas

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Parent-Teen Driving Contract Can Help Reduce Risk for Newly Licensed Drivers

The Texas Department of Transportation has launched its “Talk/Text CRASH” campaign in an effort to end the dangerous – and sometimes deadly – practice of driving while distracted.

In 2013, there were 94,943 car accidents in Texas involving distracted driving, which includes distraction, driver inattention and cellphone use, according to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). These accidents resulted in 18,576 serious injuries and 459 deaths. Almost 1 in 5 crashes in Texas involves driver distraction.

The Talk/Text CRASH campaign is meant to bring attention to the dangers of distracted driving in Texas and encourage drivers to keep their eyes on the road and focus on driving until they safely reach their destination.

Some examples of common distractions behind the wheel include:

  • Texting
  • Talking on the phone
  • Checking email
  • Eating and drinking
  • Grooming (shaving, applying makeup, etc.)
  • Reading
  • Programming a GPS navigation system
  • Adjusting the radio, air conditioner or other equipment on the car

While all distractions can be dangerous, cellphone use while driving poses the most serious threat. The Talk/Text CRASH campaign has a simple message for Texans: put down your cell phones while driving, especially teen drivers.

Cellphone Laws in Austin and Throughout Texas

The campaign comes at a time when the city of Austin is considering a ban on all cellphone use behind the wheel – even when drivers are stopped at traffic signals, according to a report by KXAN News. Austin already bans texting, emailing and other uses of smartphones while driving.

Statewide Texas law bans cellphone use and texting for novice drivers and school bus drivers. All drivers are barred from using handheld cellphones in school zones.

According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, nearly half of Texas drivers have admitted to using a cellphone while driving, and almost a quarter of drivers say they sometimes or regularly send or read text messages while driving. Research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says drivers who use cellphones while behind the wheel are four times more likely to get into a car accident that causes serious injury.

Young Drivers Most Vulnerable to Cellphone-Related Crashes

While drivers in all age groups are affected by distractions, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that handheld cellphone use is highest among 16- to 24-year-olds. Car accidents are the No. 1 killer of American teens, with 16-year-old drivers having crash rates two times greater than 18- to 19-year-old drivers and three times that of older drivers.

Why are teen drivers more likely to be involved in accidents? The least-experienced drivers have the highest crash rates and also the highest rates of cellphone use while driving, which has been shown to contribute to crashes. It’s a vicious circle.

A Parent-Teen Driving Agreement like this one can encourage teens to make better, safer decisions while driving, including avoiding distractions. Parents should discuss and sign these agreements with their new drivers to set clear expectations for when they are behind the wheel and help keep teens – and everyone they share the road with – safe.