With distracted driving contributing to thousands of automobile accidents in Texas each year, the state is adding another layer of education before young drivers can legally get on the road.
Starting next month, anyone over 18 years of age wanting to get their driver’s license for the first time will be required to take a one-hour online course similar to what drivers 15 to 17 are already required to take. The "Impact Texas Driver" program's goal is to educate more Texas motorists about the dangers of distracted driving. A state-wide texting while driving ban also goes into effect.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, distracted driving contributed to more than 109,000 crashes in 2016 resulting in more than 3,000 injuries.
"Education is always a good thing," said DPS Trooper Lonny Haschel. "There's a lot of people on the same amount of concrete daily. So limit anything in the car whether it be food, electronics, mapping systems, passengers, kids, whatever."
"Used to be you could spot a drunk," said Scott Gonzalez, a tow truck driver and owner of Dallas Discount Towing with nearly two decades on the road. "Now you don't know if you're drunk or they're texting you know, Facebooking or something."
The online course will attempt to add another layer of education about the dangers of distracted driving. Basic collision math is often overlooked for example. When you take your eyes off the road for just 3 seconds to look at your phone at 65 miles an hour, in those three seconds you just traveled 100 yards, a full football field with your eyes off the road.
"Wow. That's more than I expected," said Gonzalez. "You just drive down the road and spot cars, and half the people are on the phone like I am to most of the time.”
So next month begins another attempt at driver education. But, with tow trucks still at the ready - for those still taking their eyes off the road.