Distracted Driving Bans Gains Support in Texas

Lawmakers in Texas are filing bills to implement state-wide electronic device bans while driving. Car accident lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm hope that these efforts lead to a drop in traffic fatalities throughout the state.

Currently, Texas bans bus drivers from texting while transporting anyone under the age of 17, drivers in school crossing zones, and drivers younger than 18. In the first of three bills filed in November 2011, State Rep. Jose Mendez’s House Bill 41 seeks to ban all use of an electronic device while driving. The second, filed by Senator Judith Zaffirini, would ban texting specifically. The third, filed by State Rep. Tom Craddick and several other co-authors, also relates to prohibiting text-based communication while driving.

Similar legislation was vetoed by Governor Rick Perry in 2011, saying that the key to preventing distracted driving was not through government mandate, but through increased education and information. Nevertheless, about two dozen Texan cities passed ordinances banning texting while driving, and six legislators this year have filed bills seeking a statewide ban.

At the Texas Capitol building in Austin, advocates and families of victims of distracted driving recently gathered to share their stories and support for the proposed bills. During the news conference, many recounted the tragic stories of young drivers killed in accidents caused by distracted driving.

Nearly 40 states and the District of Columbia have laws that completely ban texting while driving. The states in which no texting or handheld device legislation exists whatsoever include Florida, Hawaii, Montana, South Dakota, and South Carolina.

In Texas alone, there were more than 3,000 traffic deaths in 2011, over 400 of which were due to distracted driving. Nationally, 52% of drivers aged 18 to 29 reported texting or e-mailing regularly while driving, according to the CDC. President Obama issued an executive order in 2009 banning federal employees from texting while driving on the job or with government-owned equipment.

Bridgestone, the world’s largest tire and rubber company, along with the U.S. Department of Transportation recently announced the release of several PSA videos created by teenagers speaking out against distracted driving. The videos were created as part of the 2012 Teens Drive Smart Video Contest. The five winning PSAs will be broadcast on TV stations throughout the United States to help spread the word about the devastating reality of distracted driving. The winning videos are also available online, at teensdrivesmart.com.

Distracted driving is a concern for drivers of all ages, but young and inexperienced drivers pose the highest risk on the road. Surprisingly, in a survey of more than 2,000 young adults aged 15 to 21, most believed that they are safe, undistracted drivers overall. This illustrates the wider problem: denial. Many Americans, not just young adults, do not see texting while driving or other distractions as a particularly dangerous or harmful phenomenon. The reality, however, was evidenced at Austin’s Capitol, when parents from cities throughout the state told their children’s stories, holding their pictures and choking back tears.

There are many programs being implemented throughout the United States to help wrest Americans from this denial. For example, State Farm Insurance recently gave a Texas high school a $5,500 grant to teach students about bad driving habits like texting, talking on the phone, and not wearing seatbelts. The federal government created an official website devoted to addressing the issues surrounding distracted driving. More information, including a comprehensive national strategy to end distracted driving, can be found at www.distraction.gov.

Car accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm urge the public to become educated on the perils of using electronic devices while driving. Over 3,000 deaths per year can be prevented. If you or someone you love suffered serious injuries from a distracted driver, you may be entitled to compensation for the damages, and should seek legal consultation.

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