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Report finds distracted driving on the rise across U.S.

Traffic safety experts say that distracted driving in Texas and elsewhere is becoming more dangerous than drunk driving. According to a new report, the problem is linked to America's growing cellphone use.

Earlier this year, the third annual Zendrive distracted driving report was released. It found that the number of phone-distracted drivers roaming U.S. roads doubled in 2018. Research shows that these drivers are oblivious behind the wheel around 28% of the time. Currently, approximately one in every 12 drivers is thought to be consistently distracted by phone use behind the wheel.

Research links opioid use to higher car accident risks

Researchers who studied more than 18,000 fatal two-vehicle accidents in Texas and around the country discovered that the drivers responsible for causing the crash were more than twice as likely as the other motorists involved to be under the influence of opioid drugs or alcohol. The study, which was published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open in February 2019, was based on Fatality Analysis Reporting System data. The FARS database is maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The most common cause of the fatal accidents studied was drivers who failed to stay in their lanes. While alcohol consumption has been a thorny road safety problem for decades, opioid use has become a major cause of accidents only recently. In 1993, drivers under the influence of opiates were involved in only about 2% of deadly car accidents. By 2016, that figure had more than tripled to over 7%.

Widower awarded over $157 million in tobacco case

Many people in Texas have lost loved ones due to cigarette smoking and its serious health effects. In a Florida case, a gay man was awarded over $157 million for a wrongful death case filed after his husband died from lung cancer linked to cigarette smoking. His lawyer said it was the first such case on record involving a same-sex couple. The man's husband was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in 1996. He lived with the disorder for 22 years until he died from the effects of the disease in 2018.

The widower filed a wrongful death lawsuit against major tobacco companies R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, seeking damages. His husband had smoked cigarettes made by both companies since he was 15 years old. The widower claimed that these companies had specifically manipulated nicotine levels in their products in order to make them more addictive. He also said that in the late 1950s, when his husband first began to smoke, the companies deliberately targeted their marketing to adolescents and youth under 18.

When do pedestrians have right of way in Texas?

Sometimes it can be confusing to understand your rights as a pedestrian. Since vehicles have a much higher capacity to cause an injury than pedestrians do, in Texas the driver must exercise due caution when driving on a street where pedestrians are likely to be present.

If you were injured by a car as a pedestrian, you likely suffered significant injuries and you were probably also emotionally impacted by the event. As a result, it is understandable that you would want to consider making a personal injury claim against the driver. A successful personal injury claim would result in the coverage of all medical costs relating to the accident, and potentially additional damages to compensate for the pain and suffering caused.

Distracted drivers are a major threat on the road

The dangers that motorists and pedestrians face on Texas roads may be intensified when drivers are distracted. Studies have shown the impact distracted driving has in causing auto accidents that lead to death or injury. One study showed that every day, around nine people die in automobile accidents linked to distracted driving. That same study showed that around 100 people are injured because of distracted driving each day.

There are a number of activities and things that can divert a driver's attention off of the road. The most common source of distracted driving in the modern era is a person's cellphone. States have enacted laws outlawing driving while using a cellphone. Still, almost 50% of people in one survey said that they use their phone to check social media, send text messages and chat while they are driving. About 60% of people admitted to using their cellphone at least one time while driving.

How to stay safe in winter road conditions

Texas residents who have to contend with wet, icy or snowy roads in winter should consider the following safety tips. After all, everyone is supposed to practice safe driving at all times regardless of how harsh the weather is.

It all starts with limiting the number of trips that one makes. Drivers can easily avoid accidents by simply staying indoors. Assuming that they have to head out, drivers are expected to slow down and keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front. A distance of five to six seconds is recommended; in fact, this can be advisable for any season.

Daylight saving time ends, raises risk for drowsy driving

Drivers in Texas may find it harder to stay awake during their commute home in the week following the end of daylight saving time. This change disrupts the body's sleep/wake cycle and circadian rhythms, and so while the body adjusts, a person will naturally feel tired. However, the risk that this poses for drivers should not be underestimated.

AAA's 2018 Traffic Safety Culture Index revealed how common drowsy driving is. A total of 27% of the respondents admitted to having trouble keeping their eyes open while driving at least once in the 30 days prior to the survey. Drowsy driving is behind an annual average of 328,000 car crashes, including 6,400 fatal crashes and 109,000 involving injury.

Ways you can reduce the risk of sharing the road with big trucks

There are few things as unnerving as glancing into your rearview mirror and seeing a large truck barreling down at you. The exception could perhaps be that rare situation where you find yourself driving in the middle lane between two commercial trucks on the highway.

Most drivers innately understand that driving too close to commercial vehicles could prove dangerous. You experience that feeling of nervousness because your brain recognizes the inherent risk of sharing the road with a very large vehicle. A fear response to commercial vehicles is common and the overall rate of collisions with commercial trucks has been on the rise in recent years.

Roudabouts reduce congestion and save lives

Town planners in Texas and around the country are staring to propose building roundabouts instead of installing traffic signals or stop signs at busy intersections. Roundabouts, which are extremely common in Europe, improve road safety and reduce traffic congestion, but they remain rare in the United States. However, that is likely to change in the years ahead as the benefits of roundabouts and the drawbacks of traditional intersections become clearer.

Intersections are dangerous because traffic approaches them from different directions. This means that drivers who fail to notice or ignore red lights often strike other vehicles with great force. Roundabouts eliminate this risk because all of the vehicles that use them move in the same direction and travel at significantly slower speeds. According to a study released by the Federal Highway Administration that was compiled with the assistance of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, replacing an intersection with a roundabout reduces collisions by 37%, injuries by 75%, and fatalities by 90%.

Teens are the most likely drivers to be distracted

Just like most young adults around the country, Texas teenagers can't wait to get behind the wheel and feel the freedom and independence that driving brings. Of course, with that comes the responsibility to act safely and properly while behind the wheel, which, for many young people, is a little slower to develop than the enthusiasm for driving itself. In recognition of this, although young people who otherwise qualify may get a learner's permit at age 15, every driver under 21 must go through the Graduated Driver License Program, which bestows increasing driver status based on time and good driver performance with the ultimate goal of earning an unrestricted license.

Despite Texas' GDL and similar teen driver safety programs throughout the U.S., researchers who have monitored drivers' behavior while in their vehicles over a two-year period have concluded that teenagers are the likeliest drivers to be distracted and the most prone to be involved in car crashes. It's fitting that these findings were released to coincide with Teen Driver safety Week as anything that can be done to raise awareness and help decease teen driver risks is most surely welcome.

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