KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
April 19, 2019
By Natalie Cook Clark
In the United States, distracted driving is a growing problem, and currently one of the leading causes of preventable deaths. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and local authorities are discussing the dangers with area drivers. They are also offering drivers warnings, and suggesting incentives like an app that offers rewards to local restaurants based on safe driving.
A Growing Epidemic in Katy
Katy authorities have seen a rise in distracted driving incidents. Fort Bend County reports that in 2018, there were 1200 investigated vehicle crashes that involved distracted driving. The epidemic is spreading in Harris County too. They have seen a 65 percent increase in distracted driving related accidents over last year.
"Any activity that takes your attention away from driving, even for a second, is considered distracted driving. Even changing the radio station or quickly checking a map can be dangerous, since it takes your eyes and attention off the road, says Constable Wayne Thompson, Fort Bend Country Constables Office Precinct 3.
While law enforcement handles distracted driving cases, other officials share the concern as well.
"We have had a fire truck ran into before by a teen girl who ran a red light while texting," says Simon VanDyk, PIO with Harris County ESD 48 Fire Department.
Distracted Drivers More Likely to Crash Than Drunk Drivers
Many people feel the need to constantly be connected to email, social media, and other apps. This mobile technology often takes motorists' attention away from driving. Statistics reveal that drivers are six times more likely to be involved in an incident related to distracted driving than if they were driving drunk.
"I don't care if it's putting your makeup on, eating breakfast....I'd put distracted driving at being worse than driving intoxicated because it takes your eyes completely off the road," says Deputy Burton with Harris County Sheriff's Office.
Are You a Distracted Driver?
You are considered distracted while driving if you:
Eat or drink
Have a conversation with people in your car or on the phone
Play with the radio or navigation system
Look at an accident while driving
Reach for something on the floor
Look at a map or other directions
Distracted Driving is Against the Law
Distracted driving is 100 percent preventable and against the law.
"As of September 1, 2017, a new statewide law made it illegal for all drivers to read, write or send a text and drive in Texas," says Constable Thompson. "If you think you’re a fast texter, keep in mind that just sending a text takes your eyes off the road for a full five seconds."
Sheriff Shares App that Rewards Safe Drivers
In a video message, Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls promotes Safe 2 Save, an app that encourages save driving.
"This free, incentive-based app offers users rewards for not using their cell phones while driving," explains Sheriff Nehls.
The app tracks cell phone use when a driver exceeds 10 mph. For every minute the driver stays off of the phone, they earn points. The points build up and can be redeemed at local restaurants like Chick-fil-A and McDonalds.
Watch Sheriff Nehls Introduce Safe 2 Save
Learn more about Safe 2 Save.
Education is Key
The National Security Council declared April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month to educate drivers about the dangers and to help stop the problem.
"Every day, at least nine Americans die and 100 are injured in distracted driving crashes," states the National Security Council website. "Cell phones, dashboard touchscreens, voice commands and other in-vehicle technologies pose a threat to our safety. The consequences of those distractions are not worth the convenience they offer."
Deputies have also produced a video of them driving around and talking to distracted drivers.
"It's not just about giving citations but educating drivers," says Deputy Burton.
Watch Harris County Deputies Educating Drivers on Distracted Driving
Local authorities urge the Katy community to put an end to this growing epidemic and not be a distracted driver.