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New State Law: Distracted Driving Course for New Drivers

Texas is taking a unique approach to combat a systemic issue in America – distracted driving. Those applying for a new driver’s license must now take additional steps than people who have tried to get a license in years past. If you are 18 years old or older, you must now take a driving skills test and one hour course on distracted driving awareness. While 16 and 17-year-old drivers have had to take their own courses for distracted driving, this is a new requirement for adults 18 and older. At this time, the Texas Department of Public Safety is planning on introducing a distracted driving course geared towards adults who are 25 years old and older as well.

Distracted driving has always come with problematic side effects, and these have magnified in recent years. Many people blame progress in technology on the increase in distracted driving accidents across the United States today. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 9 people are killed each day in an accident that involves at least one driver who was distracted at the time of the crash. Just as alarming, over 1,000 people get hurt each day in these types of crashes.

Why does technology lead to more distracted driving related car accidents? For starters, people of all ages have access to a variety of personal devices that can be used at any point in time. Devices like cell phones and tablets are always tempting to use. People think they can look down at their phone to check email, send a text message, or browse social media websites like Facebook, even for a split second, and be fine. However, studies show that taking your eyes off the road to send or read a text message for just five seconds is long enough for your car to drive across an entire football field going 55 mph.

New technology in vehicles also contributes to additional distractions. Nowadays, cars come with numerous bells and whistles designed to make the driving experience more pleasant and practical. Infotainment systems and “smart cars” include satellite radio, GPS navigation, audio, and other features. While nobody can dispute the utility of having access to relevant information while driving, having this information so accessible can cause drivers to forget how important it is to focus on the road ahead.

In all 50 states, lawmakers are looking for ways to make sure people know just how dangerous distracted driving can be. For example, numerous states, including Tennessee, have made it illegal to text while driving. Teen drivers and young adults are typically most susceptible to being distracted while they should be focusing on the road. According to one CDC study conducted in 2015, 42% of high school students admitted to sending a text or email while driving within a 30 day period. Allowing oneself to be distracted while driving typically comes with other driving errors. The 2015 CDC study also found that the students who reported texting while driving were also less likely to wear a seatbelt, more likely to drive drunk, and more likely to ride in a car with someone who had been drinking.

It will be interesting to see whether this new Texas law will reduce distracted driving accidents. At the very least, it will educate citizens on the dangers of not paying attention to the road.