ATLANTA ­–Distracted driving is on the rise in Texas, and TxDOT is urging all Texans to pay attention on the road.

In an instant, Karin Zaltsman lost her teenaged daughter when a driver made the decision to take their eyes off the road to text while driving. In recognition of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, TxDOT is sharing the Zaltsman’s story of losing 13-year-old Emily, to remind Texans to keep their eyes up and phones down while driving. Described as kind, funny, smart and driven, Emily had her whole life ahead of her, but one driver’s decision to text and drive cut her life short.

“Emily didn’t die in an accident,” said Karin Zaltsman of her late daughter. “Emily died in a crash that could have been prevented.”

Emily is one of more than 2,000 people killed due to distracted drivers since 2017. Disturbingly, distracted driving deaths increased by 10% in 2022. Approximately one of every six crashes on Texas roadways last year was attributed to distracted driving.

In the Atlanta District in 2022, there were 989 crashes that involved distracted driving, resulting in five deaths and 45 serious injuries.

“On average, sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for nearly five seconds. When traveling at 55 mph, that’s equivalent to driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed,” said Atlanta District Engineer Rebecca Wells. “The most important thing you can do is keep your eyes on the road and concentrate on driving. All it takes is a few inattentive seconds to cause a crash.”

“Distracted driving is a choice, and it has devastating consequences for communities,” said TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams. “Texting, adjusting audio or navigation systems, or scrolling on a social media site can wait until you’re safely parked. We’re urging Texans to make the right choice and put the phone away.”

Texting while driving is not only incredibly dangerous, it’s a crime. Since Sept. 1, 2017, it has been illegal to read, write or send a text while driving in Texas, and violators can face a fine of up to $200.

Distracted driving crashes are 100% preventable. TxDOT offers these tips to help drivers steer clear of a potentially deadly situation:

● Always give driving your full attention—any distraction is dangerous.

● Put your phone away, turn it off or use an app or phone settings to block texts and calls while driving.

● Pull off the road entirely and come to a complete stop before you use your phone.

● Tell friends, family and coworkers you won’t respond to texts or calls while driving.

● Avoid eating or drinking until you are parked.

TxDOT’s “Talk. Text. Crash.” distracted driving awareness campaign is a key component of #EndTheStreakTX, a broader social media and word-of-mouth effort that encourages drivers to make safer choices while behind the wheel to help end the streak of daily deaths. Nov. 7, 2000, was the last deathless day on Texas roadways.

For media inquiries, contact TxDOT Atlanta District Public Information Officer Heather Deaton at Heather.Deaton@TxDOT.gov or (903) 799-1306.

Follow TxDOT’s Atlanta District on Facebook @TxDOTAtlantaTX, Twitter @TxDOTAtlanta and Nextdoor.