Will Texas finally ban all drivers from texting?

A new bill that seeks to ban texting for all Texas drivers could reduce distraction-related accidents and overall traffic fatalities in the state.

Most people in Dallas know that texting while driving creates a serious safety risk. Still, in the absence of a statewide ban applying to adult drivers on general roads, many people persist in the behavior. In 2014, Dallas News reported that one survey found that 40 percent of respondents in Texas admitted to texting while driving in the month before the survey. Fortunately for more conscientious drivers, a new bill may finally make the roadways safer by banning texting throughout the state.

Comprehensive ban proposed

Under current state laws, novice drivers and school bus drivers with children on board are banned from texting, as are all drivers in school zones. These laws leave many drivers able to text without facing legal consequences. According to KXAN News, the new bill would prohibit all drivers in the state from using cellphones to produce any form of written communication, including texts, emails, instant messages and social media posts.

The bill would make several exceptions to allow drivers to use their phones for other purposes. Drivers would be able to call people, use navigation apps and text with hands-free technology. Drivers would also be permitted to text while pulled over. Still, critics have worried that the bill is too restrictive, and in previous years, state lawmakers have failed to pass similar versions of the same bill. If the new bill is passed, it may have life-saving impacts.

Expected safety gains

Research suggests that texting bans are associated with fewer fatal accidents. According to the Huntsville Times, a University of Alabama at Birmingham study that was published in 2014 found that primary texting bans are associated with a 3 percent drop in fatal accidents among drivers of all ages. This is the equivalent of about 19 lives saved per year in each state; however, in a higher-population state such as Texas, the number of fatal accidents avoided would likely be higher.

Statistics suggest that the toll texting and other forms of distracted driving take in Texas is significant. Based on data from 2013, the most recent year available, the Texas Department of Transportation reports the following figures:

  • Cellphone use and other forms of driver inattention or distraction caused 94,943 crashes.
  • These accidents represented close to one-fifth of all accidents that occurred in the state.
  • A reported 18,576 injuries occurred in these accidents, and 459 lives were lost.

Of course, texting while driving isn't the only form of distracted driving. However, it is widely considered one of the more dangerous distracted driving habits, since it creates a visual and manual distraction in addition to a mental distraction. A ban of this dangerous habit could reduce the total number of distracted driving accidents that Texas experiences each year.

Recourse for accident victims

Sadly, whether or not this ban passes, accidents involving texting drivers will likely affect many Texans this year. Anyone who has been hurt in one of these accidents should consider speaking to an attorney about holding the negligent driver responsible.

Keywords: distracted, driving, texting, accident