Posted on Saturday, March 30th, 2019 at 5:43 pm
It has taken years for Texas politicians to get their head around cell phone and driving legislation. There were attempts by one politician or another to restrict the use of cell phones while driving, but every time a bill was introduced it became defeated with opponents of legislation claiming that it would limit personal freedom. It wasn’t until September 2018 that House Bill 62 was finally passed. The law makes it illegal for anyone in Texas to use an electronic device to read, write or send messages while driving. Emergency use is the only exception.
It hasn’t been long since the bill was passed, but there is already some sound evidence that the change in the law has made a difference to crash fatalities. Prior to the law change, the number of accidents had been increasing year after year. What statistics that are available suggest that the increase was due to innovations in cell phone technology and the rise in use of social media making it more attractive for Texans to use their device wherever they are, including behind the wheel.
A survey in 2017 made by Cambridge Mobile Telematics revealed that a quarter of all motor vehicle accidents were caused by cell phone texting. It has also been reported that over 1,000 collisions on U.S. roads take place every day due to distracted driving, of which cell phone use is regarded as the most prevalent.
Until September last year, Texas was one of only four states that still allowed drivers to use cell phones, but no longer. How has this changed accident rates? According to the Insurance Council of Texas in its 2019 Annual Report, although the fatality rate had climbed 34% in the 9 years since 2010, there has been a 4% decrease in fatalities and pedestrian casualties since HB62 came into force.
Of course, analyzing accident causes like distracted driving can be problematic. How can you tell that a crash took place because someone was texting just before the crash took place, unless someone actually saw the driver, or the driver survived and admitted to using their phone? Some opponents of cell phone use legislation have claimed that restricting cell phone use won’t have much effect as it cannot be properly enforced.
The issue of unenforceability came out when HB62 was being debated in the Texas Senate. Senator Larry Taylor, for example, raised the example of using the cell phone as a navigational tool and for listening to music, both of which were exempted by the bill. Other Senate representatives were keen to counter this viewpoint, however. As Senator Joan Huffman said at the same hearing, if the law saved only one life, it would be worth it. Sen. Huffman said that when people know that what they are doing is against the law, they will still hesitate, even if it won’t stop all illegal behavior.
Two other similar laws have been passed in Texas before HB 62 was passed. One, HB 339 prevents any driver younger than 18 using any sort of wireless electronic device while driving, even hands free cell phone technology. The law was passed in response to the horrifying fatality rate amongst younger drivers in particular, most of which is ascribed to cell phone use. HB 55 stopped adult drivers from using hands-held devices of any type while in school crossing zones and bus drivers from using any device while minors are on board.
HB 62 might still prove to be not strong enough; such is the power of attraction of electronic gadgetry and the ease of communication it provides, so those statistics are going to be watched carefully over the next few years to make sure that the fatality and serious injury rates do continue to decline.
If you, or a member of your family, have been injured in a vehicle accident caused by a distracted driver, you have a right to claim compensation from that driver.
You should contact an experienced personal injury attorney in San Antonio as soon as your injuries allow you to do so. You can contact a San Antonio Lawyer for professional and dedicated legal help at 833-210-4878.