Motorists across Texas will see a new safety message this Friday on highway signs around the state-a message that encourages citizens to pay attention and eliminate distractions while driving.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) will use statewide signs to encourage drivers to give up texting or talking on cell phones while driving. Dynamic Message Signs (DMS) across Texas will read, “Make Your Vehicle a No Phone Zone,” or “Drive Now. Text or Talk Later.”
TxDOT is joining other national partners to promote Oprah Winfrey’s “No Phone Zone” Day, taking place on Friday.
Other transportation partners include the US Department of Transportation (DOT), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Governors’ Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS), FocusDriven, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and RADD, the Entertainment Industry’s Voice for Road Safety.
Friday’s event will place special focus on texting and driving. Motorists who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to be involved in a vehicle crash.
Distracted driving resulted in 103,526 crashes in Texas in 2008. Motorists are considered distracted when the driver is talking or texting on a cell phone, conversing with passengers, eating, smoking, manipulating dashboard controls or reaching for something inside the vehicle.
“There were 524 deaths in Texas in 2008 because of driver distraction,” said Terry Pence, director of TxDOT’s Traffic Safety Program. “The statewide messages will remind drivers that April 30 is a no phone zone day, but we hope that all Texans will think about putting away the cell phones every time they get behind the wheel-not just on April 30.”
According to a 2008 NHTSA report, 5,870 people died and 515,000 were injured nationwide in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver. The under-20 age group had the highest number of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes-16 percent-with the 20-29 year-old group posting the next highest numbers at 12 percent.
And, a 2009 Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) study found that 44 percent of teens text while driving and 49 percent talk on a cell phone.
“This is a serious and growing problem,” Pence added. “Motorists who text while driving are six times more likely to crash than those who are paying attention-not texting or talking on a phone.”
In a recent statement, US Secretary Ray LaHood reinforced the importance of educating the public about the consequences of distracted driving.
“I’ve made it my mission at the DOT to end distracted driving. We know that if we can get people to put away cell phones and other electronic devices when they are behind the wheel, we can save thousands of lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of injuries every year,” LaHood said. “That’s why I’m proud to support and participate in Oprah’s ‘No Phone Zone’ Day.”