SPECIAL REPORT: Distracted Driving Endangers Motorists, Highway Patrol

SPECIAL REPORT: Distracted Driving Endangers Motorists, Highway Patrol

Over 95,000 crashes were blamed on distracted drivers in the state of Texas last year, and highway patrol officers are particularly at risk.
MIDLAND TX, (Local Big 2 News) - Drivers who choose to talk, text, even eat behind the wheel, not only put themselves in danger, but also threaten the lives of highway workers and troopers.

"People are on their cell phones, people are talking to their passengers, or eating or just you know not paying attention to what's in front of them, It can be fatal," says Trooper Elena Viramontes.

Distracted driving can be fatal not only for those in a vehicle, but also for troopers and highway workers.  TxDot work crews carry trailers with the sole purpose of protection, and TxDot spokesperson Gene Powell explains what happened to one recently damaged in a crash.

"This particular model has a flashing arrow, and for whatever reason, the young man slammed into the back of it," says Powell.

Many people think it won't happen to them.

"Most of us think we're ten foot tall and bulletproof," Powell describes. 

Statistics show everyone from teenagers to even middle aged adults can cause accidents.

"It can happen to all us, it has happened to all of us, people die on average of one a day because of distracted driving, and that's something that's totally preventable," explains Powell.  

Almost 100,000 crashes per year are caused by distracted driving in the state of Texas, that's over 250 crashes per day.

"Our workers lives are at stake, our contractors and employees lives are at stake," says Powell. 

Studies show texting at 55 miles per hour, you go the length of a football field before putting your eyes back on the road.

"I mean we're talking about the same reaction time as driving under the influence. So talking on your phone, texting on your phone, it's the same as driving drunk almost," describes Powell.

"If it's worse than drunk driving then I think it's a very big problem," says driver Anthony Ilesamni.

Illesamni would like to see a law banning texting and driving in texas.

"I mean texting and driving is not something we should do, multi-task, I do not think that works at all," he says.

A new slow down and move over law aims at protecting officers, but Viramontes says people do not follow it.

"Right now what we are seeing is an increase of vehicles that are not slowing down, there's a new law slow down or move over, and people don't abide by it," she says.

When people don't use caution, the outcome can be tragic.

"It's very hard for us because yeah when we're doing a traffic stop and trying to focus on what we're doing right there, at times we do lose track of what's coming from behind us," Viramontes adds.

With the keys to a safe ride in our hands, driving smart with eyes on the road is everyone's responsibility.

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