AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas Department of Transportation is reminding all Texans to put their phones down while they're behind the wheel as part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
TxDOT says that distracted driving is the second leading cause of traffic crashes in Texas. In 2020, Texas roadways saw nearly 1 in 5 crashes caused by a distracted driver in which 364 people died and 2,200 were seriously injured.
"A serious or fatal crash can happen in an instant," said TxDOT executive director James Bass in a release. "If you’re distracted by your phone, or doing anything else that takes your focus away from driving, you’re putting yourself, your passengers and everyone else on the road at risk. Distracted driving crashes are 100 percent preventable. Driving should be your number one priority behind the wheel – everything else can wait."
TxDOT is re-launching its web-based augmented reality game "Dart Those Distractions" to reinforce the importance of paying attention behind the wheel. Designed to be played on a smartphone or tablet, but not while driving, the game increases awareness about the dangers of distracted driving in an interactive, engaging way. The game challenges players to throw darts at balloons that symbolize driving distractions, such as eating, grooming, programming music, or checking a navigation system.
Dangerous distractions include any activity that diverts the driver’s attention away from safely operating a vehicle. Research shows that regardless of whether a driver uses a voice-to-text program, hands-free device, or a handheld one, the distraction will affect the driver’s ability to drive safely, says TxDOT.
Since September 1, 2017, it has been illegal to read, write or send a text while driving in Texas. Violators can face a fine of up to $200.
TxDOT offers these tips to prevent distracted driving that can lead to a ticket, or worse, a crash:
- Always give driving your full attention
- Pull off the road entirely and come to a complete stop before you talk or text
- Put your phone away, turn it off, or use an app or your phone settings to block texts and calls while driving
- Tell friends, family and co-workers you won’t respond to texts or calls while driving
- Remember that all distractions are dangerous, so pay full attention when behind the wheel
This campaign is a key component of #EndTheStreakTX, a broader social media and word-of-mouth effort that encourages drivers to make safer choices while behind the wheel such as wearing a seat belt, driving the speed limit, never texting and driving, and never driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.