By Carrie Brazeal, TSB Contributor
How often are you distracted while driving? Now be truthful! The reality is that most of us are distracted several times each time we drive. The most common distractions are talking and texting, which places not only the safety of drivers but others on the road at serious risk. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) launched their Talk. Text. Crash. campaign last month to raise awareness of the dangers associated with distracted driving and to encourage us to put down our cell phones while driving.
It’s a common fact that distracted driving is becoming increasingly common and dangerous. How many times do you read or hear of accidents and fatalities that involve cell phones? It’s pretty widespread in Texas, where nearly one in four crashes involves driver distractions. In 2011 alone, more than 81,000 Texas crashes involved distractions in the vehicle, driver inattention or cell phone use. Sadly, 361 (more than 1 each day) of those crashes were fatal. Cell phone use itself contributed to 3,147 crashes, of which 40 were fatal.
If we’re honest, we have lots of things that distract us: conversations with passengers, eating, smoking, manipulating dashboard controls, reaching for something in the vehicle and looking in our rear view mirror at our children in the back seat along with texting and talking on a cell phone. For a lot of us, we associate driving with some of these distractions. How many use drive time as a way to “catch up” with friends and family? We plan to eat while driving since we don’t think we have time to stop and eat. But among all the distractions that we face on the road, cell phone use is one of the most common and a major cause of distracted driving traffic accidents and fatalities. At any given moment during daylight hours, more than 800,000 vehicles are being driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
As you might suspect, teen drivers are more likely than other age groups to be involved in a fatal crash where distraction is reported. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted: 11 percent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. The Texas Transportation Institute reports that 46 percent of urban teens and 52 percent of rural teens talk on a cell phone while driving and nearly the same percentages text while driving.
Teens along with other drivers don’t realize the dangers when they take their eyes and minds off the road, their hands off the wheel and focus on activities other than driving. Talk. Text. Crash. reminds us of the consequences associated with distracted driving. Eliminating distractions and putting away cell phones while driving can and will save lives. Just wait until you reach your destination to talk or text. Or pull over and park if you think that it just can’t wait. While cell phone use is the most easily recognized distraction, the truth is that all in-vehicle distractions are unsafe and can cause crashes or fatalities. Keep your eyes on the road and arrive alive.