For years now, we have heard the warnings about distracted driving. Countless news reports and public service announcements have told the public in Fort Worth and across the country that distracted drivers cause serious car accidents that injure and kill innocent people. But just like drunk driving, distracted driving remains a public safety problem here in Texas.

In fact, it appears that Texans are getting into more distracted driving wrecks than they used to, according to AAA Texas.

Data from TxDOT shows that there were 97,853 auto crashes in 2019 caused by a distracted driver. That’s a 1.5 percent increase over 2018. While most of the people involved in those accidents were lucky enough to walk away with no worse than minor injuries, TxDOT listed 2,500 “suspected serious injuries” in distracted driving wrecks. The department reports a 5.9 percent increase in serious injuries caused by distracted drivers.

Why is distracted driving still so common in Texas?

It is troubling to find out that serious distracted driving injuries were up nearly 6 percent last year. One reason could be that Texas has one of the weakest anti-distracted driving laws in the country. Lawmakers did not ban texting and driving until 2017, and drivers can do anything else they want with their phones. Besides allowing so many forms of distracted driving, the law makes itself hard to enforce. Police may have a hard time telling if a driver is texting or using their phone for something else.

There is one piece of good news: statewide, the number of fatalities caused by distracted drivers dropped 6.2 percent to 378. However, deaths were up in four of Texas’ most populated counties — Harris, Dallas, Travis and Bexar.

Victims’ right to take distracted drivers to court

A driver’s decision to distract themselves with their phone, a meal or almost anything else puts everyone else on the road at risk. The law may not stop them from becoming distracted, but it does let victims of their negligence sue them for financial compensation.