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Driving while distracted is not smart or safe, but you may not realize it can have multiple consequences beyond just getting into a car accident. 

Of the more than half a million car accidents that occur each year in Texas, approximately 18 percent of them – nearly one in five – are caused by distracted driving. In 2018, distracted driving led to almost 100,000 accidents that caused 2,340 serious injuries and 394 fatalities in Texas. Moreover, it is the state’s second-most common contributor to car crashes, almost four times more than driving under the influence. As a result, driving while distracted (DWD) is sometimes nicknamed “the new DWI.” Nationwide, about eight people die every day in a distraction-related car crash.

Types of Distracted Driving

You may logically assume that the vast majority of distracted driving accidents are because of cell phone use, especially texting. But only 4,000 of Texas’ 95,572 accidents in 2018 were caused by cell phones. More than 80,000 of them were caused by a myriad of other distractions.

There are four types of distracted driving: visual (taking your eyes off the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel), auditory (blasting loud music or wearing headphones) and cognitive (thinking about anything other than the road ahead). 

The top distractions while driving, besides texting, include:

  • Drinking, eating and smoking (increases crash risk by 80 percent)
  • Personal grooming or changing outfits
  • Reaching for something in the car
  • Messing with your GPS, AC or music
  • Interacting with other passengers
  • Driving with your pet
  • Outside distractions like accidents, billboards or roadside attractions
  • Daydreaming

The official definition of distracted driving in Texas is “any activity that takes your attention away from driving.” Legally, Texas’ distracted driving focus is on texting more than anything else. The state banned texting while driving in 2017. While using your phone to talk is still legal statewide, many cities have taken it upon themselves to ban phone use of any kind, including Dallas, Austin, Galveston, Austin and more than 60 others. 

Is Distracted Driving Worth the Price?

While other distractions in and of themselves (e.g., eating, brushing your hair, playing with the dog) are not illegal, they increase your risk of committing an illegal offense such as an at-fault accident, which carries the highest fines of any violation in Texas. 

Distracted driving is not only dangerous, but it can cost you. There are two types of enforcement when it comes to distracted driving – primary and secondary. Primary means that police can pull you over just for texting while secondary means that they must have an additional reason for citing you. Texas uses primary enforcement. A first offense of distracted driving in Texas will cost you anywhere between $25 and $99, while a second offense will be $100-200. Of course, adding separate court fees to the mix means an even steeper fine. 

Fines are not the only price you will pay for distracted driving. Your car insurance rates will likely spike too. Nationwide, driving while distracted impacts every state – it has increased average car insurance rates by 20 percent and premiums by nearly 8,000 percent since 2011. 

In Texas, distracted driving violations do not put any points on your driver’s license, so a first offense may not affect your rates at all. However, if it is proven that you were distracted driving and even partially responsible for the crash, your rates are going to go up – by as much as $175 annually in Texas. 

Traffic violations only stay on your record for about three years, but if your insurer offers a “safe driver discount,” you will be ineligible to receive it for up to five years. So, those five seconds you looked down at your phone could cost thousands when all is said and done. 

Just how much extra you will pay in increased rates depends not only on your driving record but on your age, vehicle and where you live. Rates will even go up for people who never commit an infraction simply because they live in an area with many distracted drivers. 

Resolving a distracted driving accident case where you were injured by someone else can be complicated enough, and your best chance at compensation requires a seasoned car wreck lawyer. The Cochran Firm Texas’ dedicated personal injury attorneys will guide you through the process and do everything we can to make it right. Call us at 1-800-THE-FIRM (800-843-3476), contact us online, or use our chat now to schedule a free consultation. 

See Our Full Legal Guide to Texas Car Accidents

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