Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Texas Physicians Support Text-Free Driving

With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, Texas physicians worry drivers are more distracted than usual on our roadways, especially with the advent of texting.

“Distracted driving is a major cause of death and disability. The Texas Medical Association (TMA) supports all reasonable and enforceable efforts to reduce this problem,” said Stephen Brotherton, MD, Fort Worth orthopedic surgeon and TMA president-elect.

The popular activity of texting while driving concerns several state legislators, who have filed bills to ban the practice. These include:

  • Senate Bill 28 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) and House Bill 63 Rep. Tom Craddick (R-Midland) would ban text-based communications except when using a GPS device, pressing a button to make a call, and using voice-operated technology. SB 28 would exempt texting for emergency situations and by emergency responders.
  • House Bill 27 by Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) would ban reading, writing, or sending a text message on a handheld device and establishes fines for offenders.
  • House Bill 41 by Rep. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) would prohibit wireless communication devices except hands-free devices and establishes fines for offenders.
  • House Bill 69 by Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-Brownsville) would ban text-based communications.
  • House Bill 108 by Rep. Patricia Harless (R-Spring) would ban text-based communications excepting GPS devices, pressing a button to make a call, and voice-operated technology.

In 2011, legislation to ban texting while driving passed the House and Senate, but in the end, Gov. Rick Perry vetoed it.

“Some forms of distracted or impaired driving are already discouraged with some success, such as driving while intoxicated,” said Dr. Brotherton. “The ability to effectively prevent texting while driving ― though challenging ― will encourage the reduction of incompetent driving in all forms. Safe driving saves lives and health costs.

“A motor vehicle is a potentially lethal weapon,” added Dr. Brotherton. Include texting in the mix and the chances of dying in a car wreck increase dramatically. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that when drivers text, they are 23 times more likely to crash their car. The Texas Department of Transportation said distracted driving caused more than 81,000 collisions and claimed more than 360 Texans last year.

In addition to saving countless lives, Texas physicians say new legislation banning texting could save Texas money. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports on-and-off-the-job traffic injuries cost Texas businesses $4.3 billion annually in the form of lawsuits, medical bills, property damage, and lost work.

“Texting is one of the most controllable and potentially most deadly distractions on the road,” said TMA physician leader Arlo Weltge, MD. “At 70 miles per hour, taking your eyes off the road for even a brief moment can lead to loss of vehicle control and terrible crashes.

 “Even good drivers can suffer permanent life-changing consequences when they decide to text and drive,” warned Dr. Weltge.

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