By Tim O’Hare
In December, The National Travel Safety Board recommended that all states ban talking, texting and emailing on cell phones while driving. Texas Governor Rick Perry and state lawmakers are not likely to enact a law enforcing the NTSB’s recommendation.
The NTSB made the recommendation after studies that show a steady increase in the number of traffic fatalities due to the use of cell phones. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, there were 3,352 cell phone-related accidents and 31 fatalities in 2006. That number rose to 3,409 accidents and 46 fatalities in 2010.
Even though Texas has banned the use of cell phones in active school zones and for beginner drivers, Gov. Perry calls a total ban of cell phones while driving “a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults,” something he is against. Other lawmakers believe the decision to ban cell phones for drivers is a decision that should be made on the local level.
According to this recent article by the Houston Chronicle, many Texas cities have imposed a variety of laws banning everything from emailing and text messaging while driving to talking. Many of those cities, however, have had difficulty enforcing distracted driving laws.
Captain Jeff Heyse of the Galveston Police Department tells the Chronicle these laws are difficult to enforce because law enforcement officers must be able to prove a driver was breaking the law. Since Galveston banned texting and emailing while driving in January 2010, only 10 written warnings and 20 citations have been issued (as of Dec. 14. 2011). Capt. Heyse tells the Chronicle that tinted windows on cars can make it difficult to see what a driver is doing.
A ban on hand-held cellular devices is far more likely than hands-free calling. Though distracted driving consists of anything that takes a driver’s attention off the road, including talking, and can lead to fatal accidents, many drivers utilize hands-free devices and many car manufacturers are now including hands-free calling capabilities through BlueTooth technology in their cars.
No matter what legislatures decide, the statistics remain the same — the use of a cell phone while driving can lead to serious and sometimes fatal car accidents. Is that text message really worth the risk?
If you have been seriously injured or lost a family member in an accident caused by distracted driving, contact The Law Offices of Tim O’Hare to speak with a Dallas personal injury attorney.