Why Houston’s Distracted Driving Problem is the Worst in the Nation

by Terry Bryant

The Houston area is No. 1 in several ways when it comes to traffic crashes. It holds the top position among all metro areas in the country when it comes to the number of traffic deaths. Houston also leads the country in fatality crashes involving alcohol and drugs. And according to the latest in a series of articles by the Houston Chronicle examining why driving here is so dangerous, Houston also has the worst distracted driving problem in the country.

Distracted driving includes texting, making phone calls, monitoring GPS, fiddling with the radio, using auto entertainment systems, putting on makeup, shaving, eating, and more. Cell phone use is the most common form of distracted driving, which includes texting, talking, and checking out social media.

A recent survey by Zendrive, a company that uses data and analytics to measure driving behaviors, showed that more people in Houston used cell phones behind the wheel than those in any of the other cities measured.  Almost one in 12 people in Houston were observed using their cell phones while driving. This number was up from the previous year when one in 20 drivers were observed using phones. Another study, by the Houston-Galveston Area Council, reported that crashes related to distracted driving jumped 23% in the four years from 2012 to 2016. A Houston Chronicle analysis of crash data for the 9-county metropolitan area shows that the number of fatal and injury accidents involving likely distracted driving increased by more than 2,400 from 2011 to 2016.

What Is Causing Houston’s Distracted Driving Epidemic?

As the article reports, there are a number of factors at work. Looking statewide when it comes to cell phone use, Texas was one of the last states in the country to make it illegal to text while driving. Even with the ban in place, enforcement when it comes to cell phone use is often lax. Some area police departments have not issued any tickets since the new law took effect, and others have only given out a handful. There are also several exceptions surrounding the ban, including it being okay to answer possible emergency communications, use navigation systems, play music, and do other things that make it hard for law enforcement to determine whether a person is actually just texting.

With long commutes to and from work, drivers in the area spend a lot of time in their cars. Talking on the phone is a way to get ahead on work, catch up with friends, and generally pass the time. Drivers may also try to save time in the morning by eating breakfast in the car, brushing their hair, putting on makeup, or even shaving while behind the wheel. Staying entertained by listening to the radio or podcasts can involve changing of stations or using the vehicle’s electronic entertainment systems. All of these behaviors take drivers’ eyes off the road and hands off the wheel. When a car is hurtling down the highway at a high rate of speed—and drivers regularly exceed Houston’s already high speed limits—this can be a recipe for disaster.

In Texas and Houston, we have a strong culture of personal freedom. People don’t like being told what to do or having to adhere to laws and regulations that restrict these freedoms. However, when lives are lost from distracted driving, reasonable changes must start somewhere.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a distracted driving-related or other motor vehicle accident, the experienced attorneys at Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law are here to help. Call us at 1 (800) 444-5000 or contact us through our online form. Get the compensation you deserve.