April is typically Distracted Driving Awareness Month, but The National Safety Council (NSC) has postponed observing Distracted Driving Awareness Month amid concerns stemming from the spread of COVID-19. That doesn’t mean we can’t observe it on our own. Here are some crashes reported in Texas over the last several days:
A multiple-vehicle accident Wednesday, April 9, 2020 in north Houston is being blamed on a distracted driver who told Harris County sheriff’s deputies that he was distracted by a spider, causing him to hit three vehicles, pushing one of them into another car. Photos from the crash show multiple damaged vehicles, three of which were parked at the time of the accident.
Around 10:30 p.m. Friday, April 10 th, Troopers responded to a fatal crash on FM-856, about five miles southwest of the city of New Summerfield near Tyler, Texas. The investigators’ preliminary report indicates that the driver of a 2008 Dodge Saturn, Joe Roy White, 57, of Jacksonville, Texas, was traveling south on FM-856 when he failed to negotiate a curve to the right and traveled off the road to south. His Saturn then went into a side skid and struck a tree with the driver’s side door, then spun and re-entered the roadway, coming to rest facing south in the north lane. White was pronounced dead at the scene. DPS officials say the investigation is ongoing.
At about 4 a.m. Saturday, April 11, 2020, a passenger car and an 18-wheeler collided into each other at the intersection of Airport Road and Village Way in Temple, Texas. One person was pronounced dead at the scene. The crash still remains under investigation.
Texas Department of Public Safety troopers were called at about 3 a.m. Sunday, April 12, 2020 to the crash in the northbound lanes of the Dallas North Tollway near I-635 where three people died when a car driving the wrong-way on the Dallas North Tollway crashed into another vehicle, officials say. A preliminary investigation indicates that a Chrysler was driving south in the northbound lanes of the Dallas North Tollway when it hit a second Chrysler that was going the correct direction.
Now, if you were out driving this Easter weekend, you might have noticed a lack of heavy traffic, but that doesn’t mean that those who were driving shouldn’t have been as careful as if there were the usual heavy traffic. Country-wide traffic analytics tell us daily traffic remains at about 60% of the normal level, as more people are working from home. The remaining traffic includes essential workers who travel to and from health-care facilities, supermarkets, construction sites, banks, hardware stores, government facilities, etc. Many of us are driving to do our errands and grocery shopping, although less frequently. People have a lot on their minds, they might be texting to let someone know they’re on their way to them, or fidgeting with their phones to find a podcast or news story – the temptation to take your eyes off the road can be greater right now because there’s a false sense of security on emptier roads. In addition, the weather is warming up and sunny days can make it seem like a great time to do that windows-down summertime-type cruising. But there is no reason for any of us to be relaxing our driving standards right now.
While nationwide there has been a substantial drop in auto accidents, there are still a lot of distracted and/or reckless drivers out there. In Indianapolis, there has been a 27% drop in accidents, as there are fewer drivers on the road, and car accidents are down a whopping 75% in Phoenix. March 2019, Indianapolis Metro Police received 2,156 total crash reports including 489 injuries and 8 fatalities, but in March 2020, they reported 1,569 crashes including 409 injuries and 3 fatalities— a drop in car accidents, injuries and deaths. But it seems that although the number of drivers is down, the rate of accidents is higher in some cities due to distracted or reckless driving. In March 2019, Austin police reported 450 crashes that left 99 citizens injured, including one pedestrian. By contrast, March 2020 had 381 collisions, but they resulted in 111 injuries (three of which were pedestrians). Detroit has even reported a drag-racing problem that resulted in a four-person injury crash on Easter Sunday.
Here are Texas DPS’s tips on how to avoid a collision:
Slow down and drive to conditions.
Drive friendly – yield to other drivers and be courteous.
Maintain a safe following distance.
Look both ways before you enter an intersection.
Signal every turn and lane change.
Stop at red lights and stop signs.
Don’t drive if you’ve been drinking.
Geico’s article, “Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving”, give us the following pointers:
“Use your cell phone for emergency situations only. While you’re driving, a cell phone should only be used for emergency purposes. Even then, it’s best to pull over safely to the right shoulder to make a call. Even hands-free devices can still cause you to miss important visual and audio cues needed to avoid a crash.
Social conversations on cell phones should not be carried on while driving. Remember, it’s against the law in a growing number of jurisdictions. You could be ticketed and fined.
If you are drowsy, pull off the road. Drowsiness increases the risk of a crash by nearly four times. A government study showed that 37 percent of U.S. drivers have nodded off or actually fallen asleep at least once during their driving careers. If you feel tired, get off the road; don’t try to get home faster.
You should limit the number of passengers, as well as the level of activity inside the car. Most states’ graduated driver licensing laws prohibit teens from having teenage passengers in the car with them during their early months of driving solo. Driving with friends can create a dangerous driving environment because novice drivers are focused on their friends rather than the road.
Avoid eating while driving. Being busy is no excuse for distracted driving. Finishing your breakfast on the way to work or school may seem like a time-saver, but it means you are less attentive to the drivers around you. Food spills are a major cause of distraction.
Do your multi-tasking outside the car. Everyone spends a lot of time in their vehicles, and it may seem like the perfect time to get little things done: calling friends, searching for good music, maybe even text messaging. Don’t do it. Focus on the road and the drivers around you. Get everything settled before you start driving.”
If you can stay off the road right now, it’s clearly better to. But if you must drive, keep in mind that people are more distracted right now. Hospitals are overloaded as it is, and they definitely don’t need to be treating people with avoidable injuries. Follow DPS’s safety tips and Geico’s tips to avoid distracted driving and keep your eyes on the road. We’ve got enough to worry about right now – we owe it to ourselves to remain vigilant on the road.
The attorneys and staff at the Law Offices of Alex R. Hernandez, Jr. PLLC hope you stay healthy and drive safely during this nationwide crisis. If you find yourself needing the assistance of an attorney, please feel free to contact my firm. We simply just want to be a source of assistance for you and your loved ones during this crisis. Well-wishes to all.
Alex R. Hernandez, Jr.