An accident in Bastrop County nearly killed a three-year-old boy and now his family is pleading for drivers to make a change.
The accident happened along Highway 21 in Bastrop County on Oct. 19. The family says the driver who slammed into the back of their vehicle was text messaging.
Dr. Mason Jones, the father of three-year-old Griffin and the driver in the accident, broke down when told CBS 42’s Katherine Stolp about the day of the accident.
“His head was badly misshapen and he said mommy my head hurts,” Dr. Jones said. “I called 911 myself.”
Griffin had several skull fractures and had to undergo emergency neuro and facial surgery. After learning their son would fully recover, his parents’ emotions shifted from heartache to anger.
“How can you miss a car sitting in the freeway and have two cars pass on the right and still hit us so severely without even breaking,” Dr. Jones said.
The Joneses believe the 18-year-old driver who hit them was text messaging. State troopers say the accident is still under investigation and have not released those details.
Regardless the Joneses, along with Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez, want to change cell phone laws.
“I think banning texting while driving is a no-brainer, but it’s still going to be controversial,” Martinez said.
The city’s Public Safety Task Force is looking into an ordinance requiring Austin drivers to go hands free while using a cell phone. The Joneses say it’s a step in the right direction, but ask in the meantime, “please don’t text while you’re driving, just don’t.”
Driving while texting is already banned in seven states. The latest report from AAA says 46 percent of teenage drivers text while driving.
Texting While Driving Statistics/Information
During a July 2007 survey of 1,000 teens, AAA found that 46 percent text while drive.
A 2007 poll conducted by the group Students Against Destructive Decisions and the insurance group Liberty Mutual polled teens and found that 37 percent believed texting was the greatest distraction to teen drivers.
Currently, nine states have laws on the books banning texting while driving. Washington was the pioneer for this movement, passing its law in 2007. The other states are Alaska, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey and Oregon.
While 38 states have bans on cell phone use while driving, Texas has no such law.
Could you text and drive? The teenagers Fox 9 talked with say they put one hand on the wheel and one on the phone. But what about their eyes?
Collin: "Focusing halfway on my phone, halfway on the road."
Which is precisely why kids aren't supposed to drive "intexticated".
Collin: "Have it below the dash board in case any cops see it."
Becca: "If someone texted me real quick, I will text them real quick."
Greg: "I had one close call while texting."
Nick: "Normally at stop signs and lights. Not normally on the highway but once in a while if it is really necessary."
We asked four teenagers to try our driving while texting test. We probably could have asked nearly any teen in town – since we found so much text messaging action at the Boys and Girls State Basketball Tournaments in St. Paul. We handed out a FOX 9 Investigators survey. Of the 161 teens responding, 160 had a cell phone and of those phones, 157 have a text messaging feature.
Talking while driving seemed prevalent -- 148 teens or 91 percent. Still more surprising was the 140 teens – 86 percent! – who said they read incoming text messages while driving.< 58 say, they do it every day.
It gets worse. 122 say they also write text messages while driving – and 42 of those teens say this happens daily.
Surprising numbers since 76 teens surveyed said they had at least one close call while messaging, including 11 who have had more than one brush with danger.
Greg: "I was driving not looking up enough and i started to hit the shoulder and had to cut back to get on the road."
We don't use the real road for our test, but a realistic course.
Larry Ouellette/Driving Instructor: "This is not unlike what you'd find in a normal driving situation."
At the Minnesota Highway Safety and Research Center in St. Cloud, we have eight cameras trained on the track, including our helicopter, Sky Fox 9.
Nick: "This is like an action movie. This is so sweet."
They'll drive a car usually used for police training.
Instructor: "Are you comfortable driving?"
Greg: "Yeah, can I use the siren?"
Those with the most real life practice driving “intexticated” are the most confident.
Nick: I don't think it will affect i too much.
Remember that for when the results come in, which we show to their parents.
We start with a cruise around a quarter mile track.
Driving Instructor: "This is going to be a lot of cornering. A lot of turning."
Collin's up first. Nick, the fastest text messager, keeps the conversation moving and Collin texting while he's driving on the track.
Nick: "What time do you work til? Yeah, he'll have to type numbers."
Collin takes his eyes off the road several times and for long periods of time, sometimes up to 3 seconds. Collins dad watches the video tape replay and is surprised at how long his son's eyes are off the road.
Collin's dad: "There's a long span there."
At 60 miles per hour, you travel about 90 feet in one second. Take your eyes off the road to 2 seconds you've gone 180 feet.
Collin: "The text messaging distracted me."
He misses a turn and runs off the road a couple of times.
Larry Ouellette/Driving Instructor: Not big time off the road but enough, if I was on a country road at 55 and I dropped off the shoulder i could have big time disaster coming back on.
Becca is more tentative on the driving course while texting, braking while she was texting – which isn’t safe, either.
Greg's speed is erratic as he tries to text.
Greg while driving on the course: "Oops. Was I supposed to go that way? No.”
Larry Ouellette/Driving Instructor: "He was off the road. He was gone. He left the road about eight times."
Greg: "It was a little distracting. But I think I did okay."
Nick, who was very confident before he took the track, made some big errors.
Nick: "Missed a couple of my turns, that was due to me looking down, I took a corner too short. That had a lot to do with texting."
Up to this point, our drivers have tackled everyday driving. But what if, while texting, they have to react suddenly.
Larry Ouellette/Driving Instructor: "You're texting. All of a sudden you look up and a bus is stopped. If you go to the brake, you're going to hit the bus."
The teens will try what is called a crash avoidance drill -- a series of lights show drivers at the last second which way to swerve. During the test there were a lot of squealing tires and cones being hit.
Larry Ouellette/Driving Instructor: "You went right down the middle and ran into that bus."
"They're distracted. And worse, they can't turn the steering wheel as far as they need to because one hand's holding the phone."
Nick: "God, that's hard to do. That’s hard to do without the phone but with the phone it's even harder."
Glen: "Stuff like that can happen in a moment's notice. If someone were to walk out in front of you."
Our FOX 9 survey showed most teens are texting their friends more often than talking to them on the cell phone. One teen told us that he's more familiar with his cell phone texting
"“How can you miss a car sitting in the freeway and have two cars pass on the right and still hit us so severely without even breaking,” Dr. Jones said."
Maybe I am confused, but it sounds like the car was stopped in the fast lane on a highway. Maybe more details will come forth, but regardless of the other idiot driver that doesn't sound like a smart place to be. Furthermore, spelling BRAKING incorrectly might be all fine and dandy on BF, but it says volumes about the caliber of the news outlet.