Insurance Council of Texas raising awareness about distracted driving
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and the Insurance Council of Texas (ICT) reminds drivers to put away the distractions and stay focused on the road.
Distracted driving remains a very serious problem on Texas roads and according to information from the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT), 1 in 5 crashes involve distracted driving.
Discussions on distracted driving often focus on cell phone use, but distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system, or anything that takes your attention away from safe driving.
Not only is distracted driving unsafe but it can also be deadly. In 2017, according to TXDOT, 19 percent of vehicle crashes on Texas roads involved distracted driving. Those 100,687 crashes resulted in 444 deaths and 2,889 serious injuries. Similarly, according to information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,166 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes across the country.
ICT supports Distracted Driving Awareness Month and we, along with our member companies, want to help to make our Texas roads safer and reduce crashes and fatalities. Earlier this year, ICT reported that Texas traffic fatalities had declined by 4 percent in 2018, the first such decline snice 2010. (See https://www.insurancecouncil.org/texas-traffic-fatalities-drop/). Unfortunately, despite the decline, Texas remains among the highest in the nation in the number of traffic fatalities and we need to do more to continue reducing this number.
During this month, many of our member companies will be educating on the dangers of distracted driving, urging drivers to stay focused on the roads, and curb distracted driving habits. You can find more information from our member companies here.
In addition, ICT urges all Texans to restrict the use of cell phones and texting while driving. In a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 98 percent of drivers acknowledge that texting and driving is dangerous; however, 74 percent admit to engaging in a text-related activity while driving. In addition, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), approximately 800 lives are lost each year due to distracting driving and the use of cell phones.
Since September 1, 2017, Texas has had a statewide ban on the use of cell phones for reading or writing text messages or emails while driving. Mark Hanna, ICT spokesperson commented, “It is still too early to tell if the new law has changed driving habits, but we are hopeful that the increased awareness of the issue will continue to lead to changes in driving behavior.”
Texas lawmakers continue to discuss the issue of cell phone use while driving. In the current 86 th Texas legislative session, proposed legislation, Senate Bill 43, by Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), would expand the ban on texting and driving.
“It will save lives,” Zaffirini recently told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in a statement. “I believe the next logical step toward reducing distracted driving in Texas and increasing compliance with the texting ban is to expand the ban to include all forms of hand-held cellphone use while driving.”
You can find more information on distracted driving and links to other resources at https://www.insurancecouncil.org/distracteddriving/.
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