I was in Dallas yesterday attending the board of directors meeting of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association. This is a vital organization that protects the rights of injured people and I am proud to be a part of this worthwhile group.
After learning the latest information about car wrecks and injuries and helping people fight to recoup their damages, as I was leaving the hotel downtown, I saw this cab with warnings to other drivers. Its driver was texting. At the next stop, I snapped this photo — yes, on my cell phone.
But your chance of being in a collision using your cell phone increase by the following: 12 times if dialing, six times if texting, and five times if reaching for the phone. All over North Texas, people are getting crashed into and injured by drivers who never saw them. We injury lawyers hear this all the time.
But it’s somehow legal to do this in Texas unless these few restrictions apply:
- You are under 18 years old,
- You have been driving less than six months, or
- You are driving in a school zone
Texas is one of only four states in the U.S. that still allows full cell phone use and texting while driving.
No wonder we have so many auto collisions. There were 100,000 collisions in 2014 caused by distracted driving — and presumably more if drivers would admit that they were surfing the net as they drove.
The state refuses to protect drivers
This shouldn’t be happening in Texas. Our state legislature banned these dangerous practices in 2011 after the public overwhelmingly approved it, but the new law was vetoed by Governor Perry. In the next session in 2013, the bill would have passed, but Governor Greg Abbott stated he would veto it so it never passed. An attempt to ban passed in the Texas House of Representatives but failed to clear the Senate in 2015 for the same reason. Another attempt to stop distracted driving will no doubt be quashed when the legislature convenes in January.
Sixty cities in Texas ban distracted driving since the state won’t pass a law. Hurst became the latest one recently.
On Tuesday, Denton’s city council just banned all cell phone use by an overwhelming vote (6 to 1). The need was that obvious. Police testified that despite the city being one of the only ones to van texting and driving, cell phones still caused almost 1/3 of the crashes there so a complete prohibition was necessary. Congratulations to its city council for having the wisdom to do so.
You have to wonder why every city and the state of Texas does not ban this dangerous practice. Why should drivers be permitted to look down at their cell phones, computers, tablets, and games as they are speeding by you at 65 MPH?
The Hurst police chief was the chief advocate for the new rules: “Since the state isn’t doing anything on this, we wanted to follow what other cities have done.” The police chief cited a study that revealed that three-fourths of Hurst residents favored more restrictive rules. Why? Over 20% of crashes there — 200 collisions each year –were caused by distracted driving, a huge increase over previous years.
What you should do if you are in a collision
Your best bet is to discuss your situation with a personal injury lawyer. He or she can gather all evidence you need to convince the other driver’s insurance company to reimburse you for your damages or file a lawsuit to protect your legal rights. There won’t be a charge for the first meeting or telephone call so you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.