Distracted driving is deadly driving

Encouraging trend shows distracted driving deaths in Texas going down, but still a major issue

AUSTIN You know that feeling of being bored behind the wheel? So bored that you just can’t help but check your phone? Yeah, that feeling. Instant gratification is only inches away, right up to the moment your car is airborne at 70 mph.

Nearly 400 people lost their lives last year in violent and preventable crashes, because of distracted driving in Texas. That text is not important. That video is not important. But you are that important to your friends and family. Being bored behind the wheel is better than being dead or hurting others, isn’t it?

In March 2016, a driver checking her cellphone crashed head-on into an 18-wheeler, killing her passengers. Those passengers were Stacey Riddle’s daughters, 19-year-old Brianna Robinson and 17-year-old Jade Robinson. The two died while traveling home from a spring break trip to South Padre Island. And in that instant, Riddle’s life was never the same.

“I keep waiting for Brianna and Jade to walk through the front door, but I know they never will again,” Riddle said in a news release. “People are constantly on their cellphones. They don’t consider that using their phones while driving can have tragic, life-changing consequences.”

During Distracted Driving Awareness Month TxDOT is reminding everyone to stay focused behind the wheel with the Talk. Text. Crash. campaign. Every year we send out these messages during April to remind people to put their phones down. While we did see an 18% drop in fatalities last year, it’s not enough. Nearly 400 people lost their lives last year because of distracted driving in Texas and nearly 2,800 others suffered serious injuries, the release said.

“Any loss of life is tragic but imagine killing or seriously injuring someone else because you thought you could text and drive at the same time,” TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams said in the release. “When you’re behind the wheel, you need to be focused on only one thing: driving. Looking at your phone, eating or adjusting your music can wait until you’re safely parked.”

It’s important to remember that texting while driving is also a crime. If someone is caught reading, writing or sending a text while driving in Texas, they can face a fine of up to $200 and many cities outlaw any use of a handheld device while driving.

The Talk. Text. Crash. campaign will travel around the state with an interactive exhibit featuring a distracted driving simulator that allows participants to experience the dangers of inattentive driving firsthand.

TxDOT urges drivers to put their phones away and remember these tips to keep our roads safe:

  • Full attention — ANY distraction is dangerous, whether it’s your phone or anything else that takes your eyes or your mind off the road.
  • Phones down — turn it off or use your phone’s settings to block texts and calls while driving.
  • Pull over — come to a complete stop before you use your phone, eat or do anything that interferes with driving.
  • Tell them —friends, family and coworkers that you won’t respond to texts or calls while driving.

TxDOT’s Talk. Text. Crash. distracted driving awareness campaign is a key component of #EndTheStreakTX, a broader social media and word-of-mouth effort that encourages drivers to make safer choices while behind the wheel to help end the streak of daily deaths. Nov. 7, 2000, was the last deathless day on Texas roadways.