|Stacey Riddle knows the pain of every parent’s worst nightmare. On the way home from a spring break trip last year, her teenage daughters were killed when the car in which they were riding collided with an 18-wheeler. Brianna Robinson, 19, and Jade Robinson, 17, died when the car’s driver lost control and veered into oncoming traffic while checking her phone.“I keep waiting for Brianna and Jade to walk through the front door, but I know they never will again,” Riddle said. “People are constantly on their cell phones. They don’t consider that using their phones while driving can have tragic consequences and forever change their lives, the lives of their loved ones and the lives of people they don’t even know.”As the busy summer driving season approaches, the Texas Department of Transportation is urging motorists to avoid distractions and give driving their full attention. With 1 in 5 crashes in Texas caused by distracted driving, TxDOT is pushing its “Talk, Text, Crash” messaging across the state to encourage safe summer driving.
“Last year, 455 people were killed and more than 3,000 were seriously injured in crashes due to driver distractions,” said TxDOT Executive Director James Bass. “These crashes are highest among young drivers, and we’re grateful to parents like Stacey Riddle who are willing to share their stories in the hope of sparing other families the grief they’ve endured. We ask all drivers to always keep their eyes and attention on the road, and avoid distractions of any kind.”
Safety experts warn that using a phone to make a call, text, check messages or perform other smartphone functions is particularly dangerous when behind the wheel. In 2016, there were 109,658 crashes in Texas related to distracted driving — up 3 percent over 2015. Research shows that holding a phone and even using a Bluetooth or other hands-free device is a distraction that can cause a crash.
Throughout the month of June, motorists can expect to see TV commercials, billboards and digital ads reminding them to give driving their full attention. Texas Mutual Insurance Company also is partnering with TxDOT to host “Talk, Text, Crash” interactive events at shopping malls across Texas where drivers can see how distracted driving crashes have affected Texans statewide. Visitors also can try their hand at a distracted driving simulator.
While cell phone use may be one of the most common driving distractions, any behavior that takes a driver’s attention away from the road — including eating, reading, grooming, programming a GPS or adjusting the radio — is dangerous. TxDOT reminds drivers to:
· Give driving 100 percent of your attention, 100 percent of the time.
· Put your phone away — or turn it off — before getting behind the wheel.
· Pull off the road to a safe location before texting or talking on the phone.
· Tell friends, family and coworkers you will not respond to calls or texts
· Use a smartphone app that sends auto-reply texts when you’re behind the wheel.