There was a 6 percent increase from 2013 to 2014 in the number of crashes across Texas due to distracted driving, including texting, according to information provided by the Texas Department of Transportation.
Of the nearly 101,000 wrecks in 2014 said to involve distracted drivers, 938 were in Smith County, according to TxDOT.
To draw awareness to the dangers specifically caused by cellphone use while driving, ETMC EMS began a campaign, encourage Texans to put down their cellphones while driving.
"You don't want us responding to your next text … Stop the texts. Stop the wrecks," reads a banner on campus at Bullard High School. It's the first school ETMC EMS has stopped by on their ongoing texting and driving campaign. They're targeting young people to hopefully spread the message to their parents and also to younger, future drivers.
In addition to banners at schools, funded by the Piney Woods Regional Advisory Council, ETMC EMS is sponsoring public safety announcements.
"If you need to respond to a text, pull over safely somewhere or wait until you arrive at your destination, because texting and driving is a dangerous activity that can result in a traffic accident," said Neal Franklin, general manager for ETMC EMS. "We hope that by bringing attention to this growing problem that drivers will realize how important it is to stay focused on the road."
According to the TxDOT, there were 100,921 traffic crashes in Texas involving distracted driving in 2014, a 6 percent from 2013. The crashes in 2014 resulted in 3,246 serious injuries and 483 deaths.
Of the 938 wrecks related to distracted driving in Smith County, four were fatalities. In Smith and the eight adjacent counties, distracted crashes totaled 2,372 with 23 fatalities.
Specifically, the use of a cellphones caused 3,423 crashes statewide in 2014, which includes 51 fatalities.
Franklin said he hopes the campaign brings those numbers down.
He said ETMC EMS drivers aren't allowed to use their cell hones while on duty, and he's personally been conscious of it, too.
"What really hit home with me is we have seen stats where people were actually texting and they take eyes off road for up to five seconds," Franklin said. "If you're going 55 miles per hour - that's more than a football field's length - you'd never just close your eyes for that long while you're driving, but that's essentially what you're doing. If that's the case, we really need to put the phones down."
BY THE NUMBERS - Texas
• The use of a cell phones caused 3,423 crashes statewide in 2014, which includes 51 fatalities.
• There was a 6 percent increase in distracted driving between 2013 and 2014. It caused 100,921 traffic crashes in 2014, resulting in 3,246 serious injuries and 483 deaths.
• In Smith County, there were 938 crashes attributed to distracted driving, with four fatalities.
• In Smith and the eight adjacent counties, distracted crashes totaled 2,372 with 23 fatalities.
Source: Texas Department of Transportation/Texas Peace Officer's Crash Reports