Pew Report, Texas Conviction Highlight Distracted Driving Issues

In a sign of the ever-growing concern with distracted driving, a San Antonio bus driver has been convicted of reckless driving for texting while behind the wheel. His city bus, moving at 34 miles per hour according to police testimony, rear-ended an SUV in rush hour traffic, according to a report in the San Antonio Express-News. After watching footage from an on-board surveillance camera that showed the driver checking and sending texts on his cellphone for a full six minutes leading up to the June 2008 accident, Jurors returned a guilty verdict in just 10 minutes.

Prosecutors are requesting jail time for the driver (he could face up to 30 days), saying he should be made an example of the dangers of how reckless distracted driving is. Sentencing is scheduled to take place in November.

The conviction is significant, in part, because texting while behind the wheel is not, in and of itself, illegal in Texas, as it is here in Oregon. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety bus drivers are, legally speaking, perfectly free to text while they drive in Texas so long as no passengers age 17 or younger are on board (which presumably rules out texting by school bus operators, but leaves municipal bus drivers in the clear). Prosecutors, however, argued successfully that texting is so obviously dangerous an activity that doing so while driving fits any reasonable standard of reckless driving, according to the Express-News.

The conviction, in some ways, confirms the findings of a study released only days earlier which found texting among adults to be more widespread than is commonly supposed. The survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project sought to examine the widely held assumption that texting is largely confined to teenagers and college students. It found that while 12-17 year olds do, indeed, send five times as many texts per day as adults, a surprising 72% of grown-ups send and receive text messages. That figure is a marked increase on the 65% of adults an earlier version of the survey identified as texters in September of 2009.

Here in Oregon distracted driving in the form of texting or the use of a hand-held cellphone has been illegal since the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, it is also true that the legal penalties for Oregon distracted driving are relatively light. If you are the victim of a reckless or negligent Oregon distracted driver your best chance for achieving a just settlement lies in the civil courts. A Portland distracted driving lawyer can advise you on the best way to defend your rights and obtain the justice you deserve.

San Antonio Express-News: Texting Bus Driver Found Guilty

Pew Research Center Publications: Adults, Cell Phones and Texting

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: state-by-state list of cellphone laws