Other than speeding, distracted driving was at the top of the list of car accident causes in Texas in 2018, according to Trusted Choice. Statistics indicate that around 18% of all the motor vehicle collisions in the state each year are due to distraction – well over 95,000.
While the bulk of these involved cognitive distractions that pulled drivers’ attention from the road, cellphones still had a significant role to play.
What the law says about cellphone use
Texas state law is relatively lax when compared to other states’ cellphone laws. Except for drivers under 18, drivers who have had their license under six months and drivers in school crossing zones, it is legal for drivers to use cellphones to make calls. They cannot use them for texting, emailing or sending other electronic messages.
However, San Antonio has its own cellphone law for drivers on the roadways of the city. In addition to a ban on texting, the city forbids anyone operating a vehicle from using a hand-held device to perform any of these actions:
- Engage in a call
- Look at pictures or messages
- Play games
- Any other function on the device
Drivers can use hands-free functions, though.
Why hands-free use may not help
Through studies performed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, researchers have discovered that it could be the messages themselves causing a large part of the distraction problem and not just the physical interaction with the device. After changing the music, sending a message using a voice command option or dialing a number, it may take up to 27 seconds for a driver’s attention to return to the road.
Not all systems are equally dangerous. Researchers analyzed 10 vehicle systems and three smartphone systems. On a scale of 1 to 5, anything with a ranking over 2 is potentially dangerous. The least distracting system ranked at 2.4 and kept drivers from focusing on the road for 15 seconds or more after finishing the task.
If drivers do plan to use a hands-free system, safety experts recommend becoming thoroughly familiar with the system before using it while driving.