What Are The Penalties For Distracted Driving in Texas?
What Is Distracted Driving?
Driving while distracted is one of the primary reasons there are accidents. Completely preventable accidents. Distracted driving is driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving, or multitasking. Multitasking while driving is considered distracted driving. Texting and driving is considered distracted driving. In fact, the most dangerous kind of distracted driving is texting and driving.
THERE ARE THREE TYPES OF DISTRACTED DRIVING, ACCORDING TO THE CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL:
1. “Visual: taking your eyes off the road; 2. Manual: taking your hands off the wheel; and 3. Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving.”
Texting and driving uses all three types of distraction. Your eyes are on the phone, so they can’t be on the road. Your hands are on the phone, so they can’t be on the wheel. Your mind is on the message you’re reading or replying to.
Is Texting and Driving Dangerous?
Absolutely. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), every day about 9.5 people are killed and 1,000 are injured by distracted driving. A day. From something completely preventable. Texting and talking on a cell phone make up a large fraction of distracted driving cases. Unfortunately, NHTSA reports that more people are texting while driving—about 32% in 2015 as compared to 27% in 2012.
It is easy enough to illustrate how dangerous texting and driving is. At 55 miles an hour, a car will travel the entire length of a football field in five seconds. This means that in the time it takes to simply read a text message, you will travel 100 yards with your eyes off the road.
Unsurprisingly, many people crash as they fail to see cars entering the road or fail to yield because they did not see a stop sign.
Based on one study, texting while driving impaired a driver’s reflexes and ability to respond more than being legally intoxicated. The results surprised the participants, all of whom assumed that they would be more alert while texting.
MORE STATISTICS FROM THE CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL INCLUDE:
● 26% of all car crashes in 2014 involved cell phone use. ● At least 9 people are killed every day because of a distracted driver. ● More than 1,000 people are injured every day due to a distracted driver. ● In 2015, 42% of teens said they have texted while driving—and texting and driving is the leading cause of death in teens.
According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, and, again, this study, texting and driving can put you at a higher risk of getting into an accident than driving under the blood alcohol level. We also don’t recommend you drink and drive, even legally. Just for clarification.
Accidents Caused While Texting and Driving
We’ve compiled a list of various types of accidents that can happen. If you insist on texting and driving, you increase the risks of the following types of accidents:
Rear-end collisions. With your eyes glued on the phone, you might never see the car stopped in front of you. If a commercial tractor-trailer is parked in front of you, you could go right underneath, causing horrific injuries as the trailer smashes in the windshield and peels off the roof of your passenger car. Drifting into oncoming traffic, we've all done it by taking our eyes off the road for what feels like 2 seconds. The longer you look at the phone, the less control you will have over your vehicle. It is normal to drift into oncoming traffic, leading to head-on collisions. If you are texting, you might run a red light and get T-boned by a car going on a green light.Pedestrian accidents. Reading a text message is particularly dangerous as you approach an intersection. You might never see someone enter the crosswalk. Even if you only text while stopped at a red light, you might forget to check whether someone has entered the crosswalk late before you hit the accelerator.
In sum, there is no reason to risk your safety or the safety of others by texting behind the wheel. Instead, put the phone away until you reach your destination or pull over.
Penalties For Texting and Driving
As stated above, 46 states, along with Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands, have passed laws that have made it illegal to text and drive in response to the rise in these unsafe driving practices. The penalties for this are steep and include hefty fines, license suspension, a rise in auto insurance rates, or even prison time.
In Texas, it is illegal to text while driving across the state. It is a ninety-nine dollar fine for the first time and up to two hundred dollars for repeat offenders. If you seriously or fatally injure someone, it is punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine up to four thousand dollars.
Of course, these fines and laws vary from place to place, but it is all a concerted effort to prevent preventable accidents and deaths. The states that do not have a blanket law that covers all drivers include Arizona and Montana. However, Arizona has a law that passed earlier in 2018 that bans drivers less than 18 this year from using their phones. In Montana, several municipalities and towns have put on a blanket ban on all cell phone usage, including Billings and Helena amongst others. We at Martinez and Associates suggest that you simply don’t use your phone in the car, and that way, you won’t have to worry about these laws.
Tips To Prevent Yourself From Being Distracted
We know it’s tempting to pull out your phone for that instant gratification. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of things that you can do to prevent or delay that instant gratification from various sources, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Get an app that blocks incoming texts and calls until you’ve parked or pulled over. Most smartphones have an option to do this. At the very least, put it on silent.If you have a passenger, give them your phone and have them handle all texting and calling and music tasks until you are done driving.Reward yourself for not driving distracted. Tell yourself that you will have a cookie when you are home safe. Or give yourself a dollar every time you drive without taking your phone out to spend on something fun.Have a designated playlist for driving so that you don’t have to search for songs, use the radio, or don’t listen to music at all.Lock your phone in the trunk if you are driving.Acknowledge that there are other people in the cars around you. Knowingly driving without distraction allows you to utilize defensive driving if there is an accident looming.
If you do these things consistently, eventually you’ll forget about your phone during a drive and won’t even think about it.
There exists a concept or procedure in emergency medicine called triage. It is a process in which emergency medicine professionals determine which person to take care of first. The person that they always take care of first is themselves because they can take care of other people. As far as we’re concerned, that prioritization should exist while driving as well. That call or text can wait until after you’re done driving, even if it is an emergency, because you, and the people around you, are the priority in that particular case. Pull over as soon as you can if you have to. Prevent yourself from being distracted and putting yourself into a completely avoidable accident or situation and hurting yourself or other people. Don’t try to multitask, don’t text and drive. Text or drive. Multitasking is incredibly dangerous, as it can distract your brain. More on that below.
Why Can’t Drivers Multitask?
According to many experts, multitasking is a bit of a myth. The human brain does not do two things well at the same time. Instead, the brain switches back and forth from one task to the next, kind of like shutting one eye and then shutting the other. Your attention is constantly divided between two tasks, neither one of which you can do particularly well.
Furthermore, texting is not some mindless activity. Instead, you have to read the text and mentally formulate a response. This type of communication quite clearly needs all of your focus and attention. Furthermore, if you are upset by what you read, then you will be that much more distracted.
Unfortunately, the people who are the worst at multitasking are usually the people who think they excel at it. This is a recipe for disaster—especially when you try to combine texting and driving.
INSTEAD OF MULTITASKING, TRY CHUNKING
So what should you do if you are driving to a meeting and need to read your text messages? Experts believe you can boost your productivity by focusing all of your attention on each task in front of you. Doing so will allow you to complete work more quickly and accurately than if your attention is divided.
For example, if you need to check your phone, pull over to a rest stop or to the side of the road. You can read and respond to all text messages at once. You should also respond to emails and return phone calls at the same time. This is called “chunking”—setting aside a chunk of time to do similar tasks and focusing only on them.
By taking care of everything at once you can focus your full attention and then put your phone away before you pull back onto the road.
Some drivers recommend using a “hands free” phone to make calls and send texts. Typically, you mount this phone on the dash or use a Bluetooth device to speak into. Think twice before pursuing this option. For one thing, these devices are rarely hands free. Instead, you usually have to push a button somewhere. Furthermore, the text or phone call will still take a good amount of your concentration. It is hard to have a complicated discussion and drive at the same time, even if both eyes are on the road and both hands are on the wheel. And ultimately, you will be distracted cognitively.
Utilizing chunking well can actually improve your results of your business calls or your responsibilities instead of trying to do two things at once and not doing both very well.
Click here for the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency page on distracted driving (https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/d34istracted-driving)Click here for the Center for Disease Control page on distracted driving (https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/index.html)Click here for the Federal Communications Comission on distracted driving (https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/dangers-texting-while-driving)
INJURED BY A DISTRACTED DRIVER? SPEAK TO A CAR ACCIDENT LAWYER AT GJEL
Injured motorists can receive compensation for medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering when a distracted driver plows into them. At Martinez & Associates, we have experience proving that a driver was distracted. For example, we might subpoena the driver’s cell phone records to identify if they were texting or talking at the time of the collision.
If you have suffered a car accident, we want to hear from you. Please contact our firm as soon as possible to start the process of obtaining compensation for your injuries.