Deaths on the highways around the country have increased in the past several months. Many would be quick to begin to blame DWI drivers for these deaths, however data shows many of these deaths are caused by drivers talking on mobile phones, texting, surfing the web, and browsing Facebook. This epidemic is growing rapidly and is causing traffic crashes every day.
We’ve all seen it; look to your left and your right while at a stoplight and chances are strong that you will see a driver with their eyes glued to their mobile phone. Some days you’ll see just as many with their phones in hand driving down the road at highway speed. In an effort to hide their recklessness from other drivers, experienced offenders will hold their phone down in their laps, drawing their gaze even further from the road in front of them. Every one of us is at risk of being struck by one of these dangerous people.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 70-80% of all unimpaired crashes could be avoided or mitigated if drivers were not distracted by mobile devices. Approximately two out of three crashes do not involve the use of alcohol or drugs. That means 15,000 to 20,000 traffic deaths in 2015 may have involved distracted driving. The number of those distracted drivers killing other people who also had something to drink would have been classified by NHTSA as impaired, and were wrongly omitted from these numbers as a result.
Deaths caused by distracted driving do not subject the offending driver to any particular criminal liability under current Texas law. Even if laws existed treating distracting driving like DWI, proving these cases would be very difficult for law enforcement personnel. There is no blood test to determine if, at the time of a crash, a driver was checking how many likes their last Facebook picture had gotten.