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Should Texas pass a law against texting while driving?

Over the last couple years, there has been a lot of attention paid to the dangers of distracted driving. Perhaps the biggest proponent of the issue has been outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who made distracted driving awareness one of the hallmarks of his term in office.

In response to this safety campaign, many states have passed laws prohibiting all drivers from sending or reviewing text messages while driving. Texas, however, has not joined the trend. While Texas law prohibits young drivers and school bus drivers from using handheld devices, there is no similar statewide ban for all adult drivers.

The lack of anti-texting legislation is translating into a big safety problem on Texas roads. According to data from the Texas Department of Transportation, distracted driving was the third leading cause of motor vehicle accident deaths in Texas in 2011. All told, distracted driving killed approximately 400 Texans that year.

In response to this trend, automobile insurers and other safety advocacy groups are calling on the Texas legislature to pass comprehensive anti-texting legislation. However, even if legislation does pass, it could run into trouble when it reaches the governor’s office. Gov. Rick Perry has vetoed anti-texting legislation in the past, and a spokesman indicated he would likely take the same course of action this year. In defense of his actions, the governor has said that the problem of distracted driving would be better solved by public education campaigns than by government intrusion into the lives of private citizens.

Texas distracted driving accidents

Whatever the solution may be, there is no doubt that something needs to be done. Four hundred deaths is far too many, especially considering the fact that nearly every distracted driving accident could have been prevented if the at-fault driver had simply made the decision to focus on the road.

Cellphones have become so prevalent in our lives that many people do not realize how dangerous texting while driving can really be. According to a study performed by researchers at the Texas Transportation Institute, it takes twice as long for a texting driver to react to road hazards. In addition, the study found that it is much harder for texting drivers to regulate their speed and stay in their lanes.

Texas drivers would be wise to treat texting while driving and other forms of distracted driving with an extreme sense of caution. Only then will the distracted driving death rate start to drop.

In the meantime, the victims of distracted driving accidents should know that Texas law affords them certain rights. Those who are injured in distracted driving accidents can pursue personal injury lawsuits against the driver who caused the crash. When crashes result in deaths, the victims’ survivors can seek compensation in wrongful death lawsuits. After a distracted driving accident, an experienced Texas personal injury attorney can help victims protect their rights.