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Extension Agent: TxDOT launches Talk. Text. Crash. campaign

By Victoria Advocate
April 26, 2011 at midnight
Updated April 25, 2011 at 11:26 p.m.

Sarah Womble

By Sarah Womble

With technology at their fingertips, drivers are constantly faced with distractions, such as talking or texting, putting their safety and that of others at serious risk. April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is launching Talk. Text. Crash. - a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers associated with distracted driving and to encourage Texans to put down their cell phones while driving.

Distracted driving is becoming increasingly common and dangerous, causing traffic crashes and fatalities. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows the proportion of fatalities reportedly associated with driver distraction increased from 10 percent in 2005 to 16 percent in 2009. In fact, 20 percent of injury crashes nationally in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving.

This deadly trend is mirrored in Texas, where nearly one in four crashes involves driver distraction, according to TxDOT. In 2009 alone, more than 100,000 vehicles were involved in crashes where driver distraction in vehicles, driver inattention or cell phone use was cited. Sadly, 408 of those crashes were fatal.

Drivers can be distracted by conversing with other passengers, eating, smoking, manipulating dashboard controls, reaching for something in the vehicle, and talking or texting on a cell phone. Among the many distractions drivers face on the road, cell phone use is one of the most common and a major cause of distracted driving traffic accidents and fatalities. At any given moment during the daylight hours, more than 800,000 vehicles are being driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone, according to NHTSA. In 2009, 3,308 crashes in Texas were attributed to cell phone use and 41 of those crashes were fatal.

"Drivers simply do not realize the dangers that are posed when they take their eyes and minds off the road and their hands off the wheel and focus on activities other than driving," said Carol T. Rawson, P.E., TxDOT's Traffic Operations Division Director. "Talk. Text. Crash. reminds Texans of the consequences associated with distracted driving. Eliminating distractions and putting away their cell phones while driving can and will save lives."

The Talk. Text. Crash. campaign aims to reduce distracted driving, not only for National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, but throughout the year. Texas AgriLife Extension reminds drivers to put away their cell phones and wait until they arrive at their destination to use their phone. Although cell phone use is the most easily recognized distraction, all in-vehicle distractions are unsafe and can cause crashes or fatalities.

Sarah Womble is a Victoria County extension agent-Family and Consumer Sciences.

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