Texting while driving has serious consequences
Distracted driving kills.
- Nationwide, it claimed 3,477 lives in 2015.
- Distracted driving caused 4,148 traffic crashes in Austin.
- Killed 463 people in Texas
- Caused more than 3,000 serious injuries in Texas
463 deaths are the hundreds of reasons that TxDOT initiated a statewide Talk. Text. Crash. campaign in 2016. A rolling exhibit has moved across the state from one college campus to the next. Students, faculty and staff can view a car-sized smartphone that appears to have been in a car crash.
McMinn Law Firm leads the news in distracted driving cases
In 2017 McMinn Law Firm filed a lawsuit against Lyft for allowing drivers to drive for the app while distracted. A family was torn apart, losing a mother and daughter when an Uber driver attempted to accept a ride from a Lyft customer.
Car accidents due to texting
In early April, 13 were killed while coming back from a church retreat. Witnesses say that the driver, 20-year-old Jack D. Young was driving erratically and swerving across lanes for 30 minutes prior to the crash. One witness said that he admitted to texting and driving at the time of the crash.
Young’s truck collided head-on with the van carrying 13 members of First Baptist Church in New Braunfels. Only one person in the van survived, Rose Mary Harris.
Until the crash on March 29, that stretch of U.S. 83 had seen no crashes of any kind this year. While behind the wheel of a pickup truck, Young took his eyes off the road. His actions took the lives of 13 people in one tragic crash.
No criminal charges have been filed at this time. McMinn Law Firm is not involved in any litigation resulting from this crash at this time. This crash is a reminder of the importance of a statewide texting while driving ban.
Distracted Driving Laws in Texas
After nearly a decade of attempts, a texting ban has been passed statewide in Texas. It goes into effect September 1st and it comes with a few exceptions.
In cities that don’t already have their own texting ban the statewide ban still allows cities to:
Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill, but said that he “was not satisfied with the law as it was written.” He went on to say that he doesn’t want to see a patchwork quilt of driving regulations in the state. If a preemptive law were passed in the 2019 Texas legislative session, that would affect city ordinances in Austin and a dozen other cities across Texas.
Texas was one of only four states that did not have a statewide texting ban. In four previous sessions of the Texas legislature lawmakers have proposed versions of a statewide distracted driving bill. This session of the Texas Legislative session may change things. It looks like the statewide ban may actually pass this time around.
House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, has tried to pass a bill for the past four legislative sessions. And for almost a decade the “common-sense ban” has been shot down by Texas representatives leaving it up to municipalities to pass and enforce their own version of the distracted driving ban.
This time things may go differently. In March the Texas House voted 114-32 to pass the legislation. Lawmakers made one amendment to the bill to ensure drivers don’t get fined twice for a distracted driving offense. That is, if a municipality already has a distracted driving ordinance on the books the driver could only face one penalty.
As it stands, the law would allow law enforcement to pull over an individual as a primary offense. That means that an officer would be able to pull a driver over simply for using their phone while driving.
In Austin city limits, a no texting ban has been in place since Jan. 1 2015. Since then, Austin drivers have been banned from using portable devices such as:
- Mobile telephone
- MP3 or other hand-held music player
- Electronic reading device
- Laptop computer
- Broadband personal communication device
- GPS or navigation system
- Electronic gaming device
- Portable computing device
In Austin it’s commonly referred to as the handsfree ordinance because drivers can speak on a cell phone with the use of a hands-free device while in a car. Violators of the texting while driving ban may be able to have their charge dismissed with the purchase of a hands free device.
In the event of an emergency, drivers are able to use their cell phone to make emergency phone calls to 9-1-1 or 3-1-1.
There are more laws on the books – some drivers are forbidden from using mobile devices around the state.
Distracted Driving Legislation Attempts in Texas
A distracted driving already exists in Texas for some drivers. There’s more to distracted driving legislation than a statewide ban.
A statewide ban for drivers of all ages still hasn’t cleared the last hurdles – the Texas Senate or a signature from Governor Greg Abbott. Former governor Rick Perry vetoed the bill calling “overreach” and an “effort to micromanage the behavior of adults.”
Despite Perry’s veto, some drivers are already banned from texting and driving statewide.
Drivers already banned from texting and driving:
- Drivers younger than 18.
- School bus drivers, when children are present.
- Drivers in school zones.
- New drivers: Those with learner’s permits are prohibited from using cell phones in the first six months of driving.
- Drivers, companies operating a commercial vehicle may be subject to fines or penalties.
Since 2009 more than 95 Texas cities have passed local ordinances banning some form of cellphone use while driving. The state prohibits teen drivers from any handheld electronic use while behind the wheel. New drivers of any age with a learner’s permit are prohibited from using a cell phone in the first six months of driving.
Commercial drivers have had restrictions in place since 2012 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Drivers may be disqualified from renewing a commercial license if they have a record of texting-while-driving violations.
A driver may face a $2,750 fine for the act. More substantially an employer could face an $11,000 for requiring the action. Lyft and Uber have faced lawsuits filed by McMinn Law Firm after a mother and daughter died in a tragic distracted driving crash. An Uber driver attempted to accept a Lyft passenger, made an unsafe left turn, and caused a fatal crash. Find out more about the tragic distracted driving crash here.
Whether holding a phone or using a hands-free device, experts say that drivers who use cell phones in their vehicles have a higher risk of collision. Crashes are 23.2 times greater for CMV drivers who text while driving.
In 2015, the number of overall traffic deaths went up in the United States. But the number of deaths caused by distracted driving in Texas was reduced by one percent. There’s no way to know, but there may be a correlation between distracted driving provisions in Texas cities and a decrease in traffic fatalities.
End Distracted Driving
Fatalities and injuries from distracted driving is 100% preventable.
Teens are the number one group reported as distracted at the time of a fatal crash. Experts say that teens can speak up to their peers when they see a friend driving while distracted or share messages on social media.
Teens are already subject to a last hurdle before they can take the driver’s license exam. Starting Sept 2015 new drivers between the ages of 18 and 24 are required to watch a two hour video on the dangers of distracted driving.
Parents – be a good example for your teen. Have everyone in the family adopt the policy of no distracted driving. Remind your teen of the consequences of distracted driving. Teens driving anywhere in Texas are subject to distracted driving fines. Fines can be anywhere between $200 and $500 in Texas.
Distracted driving injury compensation
No case value is ever the same, but there are a few basic things to understand. A personal injury case is usually valued based on damages such as cost of medical care, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
A settlement typically includes:
A driver who was severely injured may have a higher settlement value than someone who was not injured. In certain cases of extreme negligence, a lawyer may be able to argue for punitive damages on behalf of their client. Jason McMinn secured $10,000 in punitive damages in a recent dog bite case. This compensation goes above and beyond the insurance maximum.
Fault plays a role in the value of a case. In distracted driving cases, it may more likely that the other party must assume 100% of fault. With a clear liability, the insurance company is less likely to oppose a settlement. That may make the process quicker, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire a lawyer. (Here’s why.) A personal injury settlement depends on every party’s liability in the crash. Don’t forget that the insurance adjuster is looking out for the interests of their employer only.
How do you prove distracted driving?
At McMinn Law Firm, we are experienced investigators. Evidence of texting and driving can be found at the scene of the crash, on cell phone records or in social media activity.
- Crash scene evidence: No brake marks at the scene of the crash could mean the driver failed to see the vehicle they struck. Other evidence of driver distraction could include food, a makeup kit, or another electronic device.
- Cell phone records: We will obtain the cell phone records to determine whether he or she was texting or talking during the crash.
- Social media activity: A social media post or records of posting while driving could show the driver was on their phone during the accident.
- Eyewitness statements: Other people may have seen the driver talking or texting.
Act quickly at the scene of the crash to record and gather this information.
Want to know more? Contact us for a free case consultation or read more about how personal injury compensation is calculated here.