Initial Results of the New Texas Law Prohibiting Use of Cell Phones When Driving
2018 was the first full year of the Texas law banning non-handsfree cell phone use while driving a vehicle. Since the law’s inception, thousands of warning tickets have been handed out, and the insurance industry and trial lawyers have made a sustained push to publicize the law and educate current and future drivers about the dangers of talking on the phone, surfing the internet, or texting while driving. I hope that you have seen the McCraw Law Group website page addressing just these issues.
Many trial lawyers have worked very hard for several legislative sessions to get this law passed, and while the law is certainly not preventing all non-handsfree use of electronic communication devices while driving, it is having a notable positive effect. Traffic deaths dropped 4 percent from 3,720 in 2017 to 3,567 in 2018 according to a report from the Insurance Council of Texas reviewing data from the Texas Department of Transportation.
The Insurance Council of Texas cites the change in law as one factor that may have had a significant impact on the number of traffic deaths. If you consider the fact that roughly 1000 additional people a day moved to Texas during 2018, then you can see that this small reduction in the absolute number of deaths on our roadways is really a big deal statistically.
Advocating for Changes in the Law Regarding Cell Phone Use
More important than statistics are the facts that Texas families are being spared needless suffering and death because our state officials, on a bipartisan basis, had the courage to act. As a seasoned trial lawyer in McKinney who was involved in advocating in session after session for this change, I am proud of the fact that Texas roads are now safer because of the legislative work invested.
I have had people tell me that “lawyers should be against this” because it impacts their bottom line, but I can tell you that when it comes to public safety, trial lawyers as a group, hate having to look into the eyes of a child who lost their dad or mom due to the stupidity of another person. Money is not the issue—safety is. The pain we see and feel in our clients’ lives drives us in trial and in advocacy to pursue and support improvements in the law.
Our professional association, the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, advocated at every step to improve public safety until the job was done. As the President of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association when this bill finally passed, I am glad that we collectively have made a difference. At least 153 Texas families—and likely more due to growth in the state—have been saved devastation due to a needed change in the law. It is a good day.