June is National Safety Month, a month devoted to reducing the leading causes of injury or death, be it at home, or on the road. At Murphy Legal, one area of the law we focus on is Highway Safety. Every year, more than 3,000 fatalities result from motor vehicle accidents in Texas. Many of these are preventable accidents. There are a few specific ways that everyone can be safer on the road, from being less distracted to making proper use of headlights and adjusting our speed.
Distracted Driving falls into three primary categories: Visual, Manual, and Cognitive. The first two are pretty self-explanatory and can involve everything from changing the radio station, eating/drinking, or doing your makeup while you drive. Cognitive is a little more complex and involves tasks such as texting, checking emails, or setting up directions in your map app, which leads to “inattention blindness” resulting in slower reaction times for drivers, per the Institute for Highway Safety.
Distracted driving is not just a danger to motorists. According to the CDC, over 3,000 people died in car accidents in 2019 in crashes involving distracted drivers. Of those, about 1 in 5 were not in vehicles.
Newer vehicles are being built with integrated voice connectivity for your phone, and also for the control of your car’s radio and other equipment. These features are intended to decrease the incidence of distracted driving in today’s fast-paced – always connected world. You should embrace these features, instead of trying to circumvent or disable them.
Another way to help reduce the incidence of crashes, particularly in the dusk/overnight/dawn hours, or in foggy conditions, is the proper use of headlights. Having your headlights properly focused and using high and low beams appropriately can decrease crashes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety studies show that driving at night is three times as risky as driving during the day. It found that vehicles with headlights that earned the Institute’s top rating of “good” had a nighttime crash rate nearly 20% lower than those with poor-rated headlights.
Cool new technology allows for automatic switching between high and low beams, and the movement of headlights as cars go around curves and corners. These are a few of the ways in which technology is helping drivers avoid nighttime crashes. Even without this technology, you should maintain and properly focus your headlights, and use your low beams for driving in fog, or when vehicles approach.
Not surprisingly, speed is a huge factor in many accidents on highways every year. For more than two decades, speeding has been involved in approximately one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities. In 2020, speeding was a contributing factor in 29% of all traffic fatalities per the National Highway Safety Administration.
Clearly, driving too fast can be dangerous. But did you know that driving too slowly can be just as dangerous?
The concept that driving too slowly might be dangerous may seem counter-intuitive at first. But disrupting the flow of traffic, especially on major highways, is a major hazard. At least one study has found that driving significantly more slowly than the prevailing traffic is as dangerous as driving significantly faster than the prevailing traffic.
In Texas, a driver can get cited for driving “so slowly as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic”. Ultimately, it’s important to always factor in road conditions to determine if driving slowly is appropriate.
So, if you ever felt wronged for getting a speeding ticket when “everyone else was driving just as fast.” Your intuition is on point – and a perfectly valid defense to such a citation!!!
This June, and every day that you are behind the wheel, be aware of the things you may be doing that can cause a safety hazard for those around you.