TxDOT: Distracted driving blamed for sharp increase in traffic deaths

Distracted driving is not only dangerous, it’s a crime. Since September 1, 2017, it has been illegal to read, write or send a text while driving in Texas, and violators can face a fine of up to $200.

A family’s quiet Sunday in the park turned tragic when a driver, distracted while talking on her cell phone, struck 2-year-old Allie White in a parking lot, killing her. The toddler became one of more than a thousand Texas lives lost due to distracted driving in the past few years, and it’s part of a disturbing trend that continued last year.

Distracted driving deaths increased 17 percent in 2021 compared to 2020, claiming the lives of 431 people and seriously injuring another 2,934. In light of these grim statistics, TxDOT is conducting its annual Talk. Text. Crash. campaign during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April to urge Texans to keep their heads up, put their phones down and just drive.

“Distracted driving crashes are 100% preventable, and we’re urging everyone to just drive whenever they’re behind the wheel,” said TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams. “Texans are killed each year simply because someone was distracted by their phone, radio, navigation system, eating or drinking, or even by others in the car. When your focus isn’t on driving, you’re putting yourself, your passengers and everyone else on the road at risk.”

Distracted driving is not only dangerous, it’s a crime. Since September 1, 2017, it has been illegal to read, write or send a text while driving in Texas, and violators can face a fine of up to $200. 

TxDOT offers these tips to prevent distracted driving that can lead to a ticket or preventable crash:

  • Always give driving your full attention; remember that any distraction is dangerous.
  • Pull off the road entirely and come to a complete stop before you talk on your phone or text.
  • Put your phone away, turn it off, or use an app or your phone settings to block texts and calls while driving.
  • Tell friends, family and coworkers you won’t respond to texts or calls while driving.

As part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, TxDOT is conducting Talk. Text. Crash. outreach events around the state that feature an immersive TV wall with a touch-free driving simulator to give participants a real-life sense of how distractions affect driving. There will also be tips and facts that’ll help remind everyone to give driving their full attention.

Event schedule:

April 16 – San Antonio

April 18 – Austin

April 21 – El Paso

April 23 – Houston

April 24 – Arlington

April 30 – McAllen

TxDOT is also relaunching its web-based augmented reality game “Dart Those Distractions” to reinforce the importance of paying attention behind the wheel.

The Talk. Text. Crash. distracted driving awareness campaign is a key component of #EndTheStreakTX, a broader social media and word-of-mouth effort that encourages drivers to make safer choices while behind the wheel, like wearing a seat belt, driving the speed limit, never texting and driving, and never driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. November 7, 2000, was the last deathless day on Texas roadways. #EndTheStreakTX asks all Texans to commit to driving safely to help end the streak of daily deaths on Texas roadways.

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