Ken Paxton

Monday, May 23, 2011

Attorney General Abbott, DPS Director McCraw Warn Young Texans Not To Text and Drive

HOUSTON Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw today warned young Texans not to read or send text messages while driving.

During a joint appearance in Houston, Attorney General Abbott and Director McCraw discussed the danger that young drivers pose to themselves and others when they attempt to text and drive at the same time. Citing research by the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and National Automotive Sampling, the state’s top law enforcement officials explained that sixteen percent of all fatal vehicular crashes associated with motorists under the age of 20 involved drivers who were distracted at the time of the accident. In 2010, the Texas Department of Transportation reported that cell phone use contributed to more than 3,000 crashes statewide. During today’s event, Attorney General Abbott and Director McCraw were joined by an AT&T representative and a Cesar Chavez High School student.

Texting while driving compromises even the most experienced drivers’ ability to focus on the road, Attorney General Abbott said. Reading or sending text messages while attempting to drive unnecessarily puts drivers, their passengers and others who are nearby in a dangerous situation. With their entire lives and bright futures literally at their fingertips, young Texans must help prevent avoidable tragedies by putting down their phones when they are behind the wheel.

A three-second text could ruin a driver’s life and the lives of others, said DPS Director Steve McCraw. Teenage drivers are masters of social networking technology, and we expect them to understand how vulnerable the driving public is when someone chooses to text and drive. Young Texas drivers are invited to watch these videos and serve as role models to their parents and other older adults who have yet to understand the high risk to themselves and others.

To show teenagers the perils of texting while driving, the Attorney General’s Office and DPS conducted texting-while-driving tests at four Texas high schools. The driving test required students to drive a vehicle through an obstacle course while attempting to compose, read or send text messages on a cellular phone.

During each test, which DPS created with traffic cones, a state trooper was in the vehicle to monitor driver safety. Throughout the driving test, the deputy also recreated several of the common distractions that young drivers encounter from their passengers. For example, as the student texted and drove through the obstacle course, the deputy chatted with the driver, asked questions and suggested what the driver should type in their text messages.

Staff from DPS and the Attorney General’s Office videotaped each student’s driving session. Recordings from both inside and outside test vehicles revealed distracted student drivers veering into traffic cones, swerving out of their lane and making sudden starts and stops.

After showing the driving results to Cesar Chavez High School students today, Attorney General Abbott and Director McCraw encouraged all young Texas drivers to protect themselves, their friends and their fellow Texans by avoiding texting while driving.