I have written many times about the hazards of distracted driving. Texas has tried to pass state-wide bans, but has never gotten past Governor Perry.
The Dallas Morning News recently ran an article that asserts that cell phone use or texting while driving may be more common than we’ve been led to believe. Here are the opening paragraphs of the article:
People shudder when they see this driver.
His bobbing head follows a familiar rhythm, nodding down to write or read a text and then glancing at the road to check traffic.
He tends to drift out of his lane and sometimes rear-ends the car in front of him.
State troopers and local police officers listed cellphone use as a contributing factor in 3,283 accidents in 2012. But traffic safety experts say the number vastly understates the true extent of the problem.
The suspicion is that cellphone use ranks with DWI and speeding as chief causes of injury and death on streets and highways.
“I wouldn’t say it’s the most important thing, but it’s pretty close,” said Sgt. Brandon Price, a veteran traffic cop in Allen. “I have really started to talk to people, especially kids, about the dangers of cellphone use while driving.”
Nearly two dozen Texas cities have prohibited texting and driving. Efforts to impose a statewide ban have failed in the Legislature even though safety advocates suspect that cellphone use is increasingly the cause of accident injuries and death.
But that assertion is hard to prove because of data-gathering problems.
At a crash, officers are supposed to ask if a cellphone was involved. Most drivers reflexively say, “No.” Sometimes, particularly in minor wrecks, the question doesn’t get asked. Police want to clear the wreckage quickly and get traffic flowing again.
“Do we have good data to know the extent to which cellphone use contributes to accidents? Not even close,” said Sgt. Paul Lassalle, a traffic safety expert at the Houston Police Department.
“It’s hard to get at. Drivers don’t want to confess they were doing something silly, like talking on the phone, that caused the wreck.”