The Texas Department of Transportation is pushing its annual “Talk, Text, Crash” message statewide, in time for the busy summer vacation driving season. TxDOT says 1 in 5 crashes in Texas are caused by distracted driving, leading to 455 deaths and more than 3000 serious injuries in the state last year.
Deidrea George, public information officer with TxDOT’s Houston district, says the program emphasizes priorities. “The purpose behind our campaign is just to remind motorists that when they get in the car to pay 100% attention to what they’re doing when they’re behind the wheel, and that should be driving.”
George says distractions come in all forms. “Distracted driving is not just your phone,” she says. “It is any and everything that takes your attention away from what the task at hand should be, which is driving.” Children or passengers in the car, eating and drinking, putting on makeup, or fooling with the sound system can also be distracting to a driver.
But, George says, texting or phoning somebody while driving is easily avoided. “The one thing that you can do, [when] you get in that car, [is] put your cell phone in the back seat,” she says. “Put your purse in the back seat. Put it away from you.”
A spokesperson for the campaign is Stacey Riddle of Bellaire, whose two teenage daughters were killed last year in an accident caused by the distracted driver of the car in which they were riding. Brianna Robinson, 19, was a gifted athlete. Her sister Jade Robinson, 17, was a “born leader,” according to her mother. Mrs. Riddle says, “I am saddened when I think of all of the possibilities and all of the potential that will not be realized because of this tragic loss.”
Mrs. Riddle adds, “Our family has suffered pain that no family should ever have to endure. Yet it is in that pain that I constantly think of how this could have been prevented.”
Governor Greg Abbott on Tuesday signed a law that bans texting and driving on Texas roadways as of September 1.