By now many studies have highlighted the destructive consequences of distracted driving. In fact, two years ago 3,154 people lost their lives and roughly 424,000 people were injured because of distracted driving nationwide. While Texas state law places distracted-driving restrictions on bus drivers, novice drivers and all drivers in school zones, the City of Austin goes further.

Starting in 2015, Austin became a hands-free city, meaning it’s a violation of city ordinance to use a handheld electronic device while operating a motor vehicle or a bicycle. Anyone cited for violating the ordinance could be fined up to $500. The hands-free ordinance is in addition to an existing ban on texting while driving in Austin.

Here is why Austin’s ban on handheld devices makes sense.

When you’re driving, you’re using your visual, manual and cognitive capacities. When you’re texting or reaching for a handheld device, the visual, manual and cognitive capacities for driving are compromised. You’re not focused on the road or any changing traffic conditions that require your prompt reaction.

In fact, one study showed that texting while driving takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of five seconds, essentially blindfolding the driver during that time. If a person is going 55 miles per hour while texting, then the vehicle can cover the length of a football field while the driver is basically blind to the road.

Another study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that drivers are three times more likely to crash when they engage in visual-manual tasks such as texting or reaching for a phone. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also concluded that texting while driving is just as dangerous and often more dangerous than drinking and driving.

The statistics are one thing. The pain and loss are another.

Distracted driving continues to take a toll on virtually every community in Texas. The truth is that texting while driving is irresponsible behavior that can have devastating consequences for accident victims, and awareness of the dangers of distracted driving is increasing. Even so, insurance companies and distracted drivers often try to shirk their responsibilities after an accident.

For more on holding insurers and distracted drivers accountable, please see The Levine Law Firm’s distracted-driving overview. Attorney Jeremy Levine provides compassionate, comprehensive representation to Austin-area clients who have been harmed by distracted driving.