Distracted driving has been cited by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as one of the most serious issues facing motorists in the U.S. Texting while driving is especially dangerous; the National Safety Council estimates that 1.6 million crashes annually are caused by cell phone use while driving. In 2013, cell phone related accidents were responsible for the deaths of 3,328 people. By contrast, driving while intoxicated claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people during the same year. For those who have lost loved ones or who have been injured in these types of accidents, consulting with an experienced Houston auto accident personal injury attorney can provide the support needed to weather these events and to achieve fair financial compensation for their losses.
Comparing DWI with Distracted Driving
Establishing the exact number of accidents associated with texting while driving is difficult due to the transient nature of these activities. Worse yet, a study conducted in 2015 by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicated that driver distraction could last nearly 30 seconds after engaging in cell phone use, making it even more challenging to ascertain the reasons behind a particular crash. Drunk driving fatalities can be more accurately assessed due to the persistence of blood alcohol concentration after the accidents have occurred. As a result, determining the number of fatal accidents directly attributable to distracted driving is not a clear-cut proposition for law enforcement agencies.
While Drunk Driving Decreases, Distracted Driving Continues to Rise
According to studies conducted by the NHTSA, drunk driving fatalities have fallen sharply between 2002 and 2011:
- In 2002, 12,405 people lost their lives in alcohol-related accidents.
- That number had decreased by 25 percent to 9,296 fatalities in 2011.
For the same time period, fatal distracted driving accidents rose by 22 percent from 2,600 deaths in 2002 to 3,331 fatalities. Many of these accidents involved texting while driving, which is especially risky according to many authorities in the field.
Why Texting While Driving Is So Dangerous
A 2013 study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute demonstrated that text messaging behind the wheel resulted in inattention to the road ahead for an average of 23 seconds. Another independent research study by the experts at Car and Driver showed significant differences between the ability of drivers to brake when traveling at speeds of 35 miles per hour:
- Baseline reaction times were less than half a second.
- Reading a text increased the braking distance by an average of 45 feet.
- An average 41-foot increase in distance was recorded for drivers who were writing a text.
- Drinking while driving, by contrast, resulted in an increase of only seven feet over the baseline scores.
With nearly half of all drivers admitting to cell phone use in the 2012 NHTSA National Survey on Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors, the potential for injury and fatality accidents is staggering.
Statistics Closer to Home
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, distracted driving caused 442 fatal crashes and 483 deaths in 2014. The total number of motor vehicle accidents resulting from distractions exceeded 100,000 in the Lone Star State. Alcohol-related accidents caused 1,041 deaths in 925 separate incidents, accounting for nearly 30 percent of all fatality accidents in the state. The total number of traffic deaths in Texas was 3,534 in 2014. While more than 40 cities have already enacted legislation prohibiting texting behind the wheel, Texas has yet to institute a statewide ban on this practice.
If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident related to drunk or distracted driving, retaining the professional services of a Houston auto crash attorney can ensure that you receive the maximum possible compensation for your claims. Your Houston auto accident lawyer will work with you to determine the causes of your crash and the best way to proceed both in and out of the courtroom setting. This can help you to achieve closure on the incident and to avoid serious financial repercussions from these unfortunate events.