Distracted Driving is Responsible for One-Fifth of Traffic Accidents

Cell phones are ubiquitous devices which we’ve integrated into everyday life like few technologies before them. We use them at home, in stores, in restaurants, on vacations, during nature hikes and just about everywhere else. When we’re not talking on them, we’re checking them for email, news, videos, traffic updates and much more.

And let’s not forget about texting. Each day, Americans send more than 6 billion text messages. It’s never been so easy to communicate.

Or, unfortunately, to hit someone.

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, distracted driving is responsible for 1 in 5 vehicle crashes in the state. In 2017, distracted drivers accounted for more than 100,000 accidents on Texas roads, resulting in 444 deaths and 2,889 serious injuries.

In virtually every case, the primary factor was cell phone use.

When does a phone stop being a pocket-sized convenience and become a dangerous distraction? The second you get behind the wheel. Contrary to popular belief, the human brain cannot multitask. It can sort through tasks very quickly, but it can only focus on one thing at a time. Since driving and phone use are both “thinking tasks,” they use the same part of the brain. So, while a person may be able to walk and chew gum—a thinking and non-thinking task—simultaneously, phone use and driving depend on an entirely different mental process.

It’s impossible to look at a cell phone and watch the road. The evidence is clear. But drivers continue to pick up their phones.

Since September 2017, it’s been illegal in Texas to read, write or send a text while driving. Yet, in the 16 months following the law’s passage, state troopers issued more than 6,000 warnings and 2,000 citations for texting behind the wheel. This far-from-harmless habit has serious, often deadly, consequences. Fortunately, there are techniques that can help Texas drivers change their behavior.

  1. Whenever possible, turn off your phone until you reach your destination. No call or text is worth risking an accident.
  2. If turning off your phone is not an option, use a hands-free device. While this doesn’t eliminate the distraction, it does allow you to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.
  3. Never use your cell phone in heavy traffic, bad weather conditions, pedestrian areas, or construction or school zones.

At Texas Mutual Insurance Company, we’ve urged employers across the state to adopt strict cell phone policies for their drivers. Eliminating phone use behind the wheel works. We know, because we’ve done it. We require every Texas Mutual employee to turn off their cell phone while driving. The practice has not reduced our ability to do business. It has reduced accidents.

By restricting cell phone use, controlling speed, using safety belts, and never driving drowsy or while impaired, we can prevent accidents and get a whole lot of good Texans home safe.

For more safe driving tips, go to worksafetexas.com.

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