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Advocates for Texting While Driving Ban State Data is Largely Unreported

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David Turnbull4 years ago

According to the Houston-Galveston Area Council, police officers in the State of Texas are not recording enough data on whether cell phones were involved in car crashes for the data to become meaningful. As such, incidents of texting and driving may be going underreported.

TxDOT Crash Reports Place Low Priority on Cell Phone Use

“People are reluctant to admit they were on the phone because they think there is a law against it already. It’s really underreported.” – Sgt. Brandon Price, Allen traffic officer as published by the Dallas Morning News

  • As cellphone use is suspected to be with drunk driving and speeding as a leading cause of traffic collisions resulting in injury or death, the numbers have not been there to confirm these suspicions.
  • Although cellphone use was listed as a factor in 3,283 different accidents in 2012, the Texas Department of Transportation lists 93,094 accidents in 2012 which involved either a “distraction in vehicle” or “driver inattention”.
  • Police officers at the scene of accidents complete CR-3 forms, categorizing 73 different “factors and conditions”, which are later sent to the Department of Transportation in Austin. 
  • The Dallas Morning News reports that unless a driver admits to cell phone use, a police officer has to mark on the CR-3 either “driver inattention” or “distraction in vehicle” as a cause of the crash.
  • According to Jeff Kaufman, traffic expert with the Houston-Galveston Area Council, the box for cell phone use is also likely to go unchecked because police cannot currently prosecute for the charge leading to further underreporting.

Public Policy is Mixed in Terms of Adding More Government Regulation 

  • On the one side, House Representative Tom Craddick (R) of Midland advocates passing a statewide texting ban in order to allow law enforcement the ability to prosecute. 
  • Additionally, Paul Lassale of the Houston Police Department’s traffic safety division has stated that both an ad campaign and anti-texting law would save lives. 
  • In order to pass a statewide law, according to Lassale, court testimony such as for seatbelt violations would help persuade the House, Senate and the Governor. 
  • To date, nearly two dozen cities in Texas have passed laws prohibiting texting while driving.
  • However on the other side, Governor Rick Perry vetoed a texting ban in 2011 and the Texas Senate allowed a similar bill to die earlier this year, due to both a fear the Governor would veto it, but also with the viewpoint that cellphone use does not drastically differ from other forms of distracted driving.
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