The Cost of Negligence
Sgt Richard Standifer spoke to Region 1 Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association this last Saturday in La Porte on the dangers of texting for both drivers and their victims. Effective Sept. 1, of 2017 texting while driving will be illegal across the state of Texas as the result of a new texting-while-driving ban passed during the 85th Texas Legislative Session. The law prohibits motorists from reading, writing or sending electronic messages while driving.
“One in five crashes in Texas is caused by distracted driving,” said TxDOT Executive Director James Bass. “We are pleased the Texas Legislature recognizes the extreme danger caused by texting and driving. The new law sends a very clear message to Texans to put down their phones and focus on the road. We are hopeful this new law will help save lives and reduce injuries.”
In 2016, 109,658 traffic crashes in Texas involved distracted driving. Those crashes resulted in 455 deaths and 3,087 serious injuries.
While distracted drivers risk injuring or killing themselves and others, they also now face penalties under the new statewide law. A first offense is punishable by a fine up to $99; any subsequent offense carries a fine up to $200. Drivers should be aware that some cities have additional ordinances that are more restrictive. Exceptions to the new law include emergency communication or electronic messaging when the vehicle is stopped.
For those under 18 years of age, Texas law already bans all cell phone use while driving, including hands-free, except in the case of emergencies. Additionally, drivers are currently banned from texting and using hand-held cellular devices while driving in school zones. School bus operators also are prohibited from using cell phones while driving if children are present.
While nobody wants to pay a fine, the real message Sgt Standifer brought with him was that texting kills. When a young man, only 22years of age wandered out of his lane while texting and hit a bus full of elderly people head on, his intent was not to harm anyone. In fact when the police arrived on the scene he easily admitted that he had been texting. And even though this incident happened prior to the passing of the texting law, the young man still ended up getting sentenced to 55 years in prison for negligence.
Thirteen lives lost and one life ruined. Granted, this law says you must be reading, writing, or sending a message to be in violation but will that matter at all to you if you are responsible for causing pain or loss of life to another? The temptations to be distracted while we are driving are many and our smart phones create some of the most dangerous and most frequent. The simple truth is that driving is probably the most dangerous thig we do each day of our lives. It would behoove us to take this cautionary tale under advisement and pay attention to the road when we drive. If the GPS is not giving you the right information, pull over to figure out where you are going. When the kids start acting up in the back seat, pull over to correct them. And when you hear your phone ding, consider for just one moment whether checking it is worth your lofe.