Distracted Driving: The New DWI in Texas?
woman talking on phone while driving

In Texas, almost any month could be Distracted Driving Awareness Month. That’s because you see distracted drivers every day on highways and in your neighborhoods – drivers texting, talking on their phones, checking email, and so on. They pose a dangerous risk to you and your loved ones. Here's what you should know.

Is Driving Distracted the New DWI?

Nationally, the numbers are bad enough. Distracted drivers killed 3,142 Americans in 2019, an increase of 10% over 2018, according to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The numbers in Texas are, if it’s even possible, more tragic. Distracted driving was a contributing factor in 95,572 accidents in 2018, trailing only speeding (140,544). In fact, distracted driving is cited in nearly four times more accidents than driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, leading officials to call driving while distracted “the new DWI.”

A breakdown of other state numbers from 2018:

  • Distracted driving was a factor in about 18% of all accidents
  • Distracted driving accidents caused 2,340 serious injuries and 394 deaths
  • 4,325 accidents involved the use of cell phones and other portable devices
  • 84,826 involved driver inattention (daydreaming, listening to music, etc.)
  • 6,421 involved other distractions (pets, children, retrieving dropped objects, etc.)

Part of the problem? Texas was slow to react to the problem of distracted driving. In 2017, it became the 47th state to ban texting while driving, targeting drivers under the age of 18, school bus operators, and anyone in a school crossing zone. In fact, handheld cell phone use remains legal. One sign of progress? More than 60 cities statewide have enacted their own laws making it illegal.

Penalties for Distracted Driving and Preventive Measures

The penalties for distracted driving remain relatively low and not much of a deterrent:

  • $25 to $99 for a first offense
  • $100 to $200 for a second offense
  • Court costs and fees, as well as a possible increase in insurance rates, averaging $175 if imposed, may also apply

The NHTSA suggests several safety tips to prevent distracted driving. Among them are:

  • Pulling over and parking when you need to talk on a phone, text, read email, post status updates on social media, etc.
  • Designating a passenger to handle phone-related tasks.
  • Turning off the phone, and/or placing it in the glove compartment, back seat or trunk.
  • Speaking up when you are a passenger and the driver engages in distracted behavior.
  • Challenging friends and family to pledge not to drive distracted.

When You’ve Been Injured, Keep Calm and Call Karam

Clearly, the state does not take distracted driving seriously enough. The laws are loose. The fines are relatively small (in neighboring Louisiana, for instance, fines start at $500 for adults and $250 for drivers under 18). The combination increases the risk that you may be injured in a car accident caused by a distracted driver who knows they face minor consequences.

The driver who caused your accident is unlikely to admit they were distracted or at fault. Often, they will instead try to blame you. In the meantime, you may be dealing with injuries that leave you unable to work, pay your bills, and support your family. Adding to your stress is an insurance company tempting you with a lowball settlement offer because they know you are desperate for money.

At Karam Law Firm, attorney Aizar J. Karam Jr. and his dedicated legal team know how to build a strong legal case based on evidence to help you pursue a fair financial settlement for you and your family. With offices in McAllen and Edinburg, we will aggressively protect your rights and fight for the compensation you deserve.

Contact us today for a free consultation.

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