By Tim O’Hare
Car accidents are the leading cause of death in the United States. One in two Americans has been in a serious accident or had someone they know seriously injured or killed in an accident. According to the AAA Traffic Safety Culture Index, 52% of people feel driving is less safe now than it was five years ago, and half of those cite distracted driving as the main reason they don’t feel safe driving. Along with drunk driving, the use of cell phones and texting is a primary cause of distracted driving.
Although the use of hands free cell phones is becoming more popular, two in three drivers admit to talking on their hand-held cell phone while driving in the past month, and one in three say they do so regularly. One in four drivers admit to texting or emailing on their cell phones while driving.
A study by the University of North Texas found that more than 16,000 people between 2001 and 2007 died in accidents caused by a distracted driver who was texting on their cell phone. That was 4 years ago. Since 2002, the average monthly volume of text messages has risen from 1 million to 110 million in 2008 — that number is likely far greater in 2011.
Personal injury attorneys are dealing with nearly as many cases of death or serious injury by distracted driving as drunk driving. While many states have outlawed the use of cell phones while driving, Texas has not. Current laws in Texas prohibit the use of hand-held devices in active school crossing zones, for intermediate license holders for the first 12 months and bus drivers when a passenger under 17 is present.
In Texas, law enforcement is able to cite a driver for the use of cell phones in prohibited zones or by novice drivers, whereas in some states, law enforcement must have another reason to stop the vehicle before citing the driver for the use of a cell phone.
While the use of a cell phone while driving is not entirely prohibited in Texas, distracted driving can result in significant fines or jail sentence, especially when serious injury or death results from the accident. In 2009, a woman from Humble, Texas was sentenced to 30 days in jail, 10 years probation, a $10,000 fine, 400 hours of community service and was ordered to pay for the funeral of a man who was killed in an accident she caused while using her cell phone.
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.