In an effort to battle distracted driving, the Texas Department of Transportation is spreading its ‘Heads up, Texas’ campaign across the state, bringing with it a virtual reality booth to 19 cities, including to Midland on May 1.
Pushing recent findings and new statistics, TxDOT is partnering with AT&T’s It Can Wait campaign in efforts to encourage Texans to put away their cell phones and stay attentive while behind the steering wheel.
In Texas in 2017, at least 19 percent of all vehicle crashes in the state involved distracted driving, according to a TxDOT news release.
The traveling virtual reality experience at the center of the campaign will make its way to the area at the Midland RockHounds’ home game May 1.
“Basically, it’s like a huge video game of one type or another, to teach people the dangers of driving distracted,” said Odessa District of TxDOT public information officer Gene Powell.
Powell said the dangers of distracted driving are just as prevalent in Odessa and throughout the Permian Basin as they are in other places.
In Odessa in 2017, there were 243 crashes attributed to distracted driving, with 14 resulting in serious injuries. Through the district’s 12 area counties, there were 1,446 crashes attributed to distracted driving in 2017, resulting in 14 fatalities and 51 serious injuries.
“From what we can prove, we know 19 percent of all crashes are caused by distracted driving, so if people are serious about being safe, if people are serious about improving safety on the roads, you can knock out a fifth of all crashes by not driving distracted,” Powell said. “That’d be a huge step in the right direction.”
This spring, TxDOT hopes to get Texans moving into that direction.
“This is the time of year when people are thinking about getting out in the sun, going and having fun, going on vacations, getting weekend trips, all those kinds of things. And we just take it for granted that, ‘It’s not going to happen to us,’ but last year, there were 10 people a day killed in crashes on Texas roads, and I guarantee you they all thought it couldn’t happen to them,” Powell said.
“We have to protect ourselves, we have to watch out for other drivers, we have to protect our families. That’s why we do so many of these campaigns.”
- In 2017, the total number of vehicle traffic crashes on Texas roads was 537,475. Of those, 100,687 or 19 percent involved distracted driving.
- The 100,687 distracted-driving crashes in Texas resulted in 444 deaths and 2,889 serious injuries.
- The number of crashes involving distracted driving in Texas decreased by 8 percent from 2016 to 2017 and the number of fatalities decreased by 3 percent, but we still lost 444 lives so there is clearly a need for drivers to continue changing their behaviors.
- In Texas, distracted driving-related crashes and fatalities are highest among drivers ages 16 to 24.