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Which is the Worst County in Texas for Distracted Driving?

With advances in smartphone technology, distracted driving has become a widespread hazard on the roads. While there has been an 8% decrease in distracted driving accidents in Texas from 2016 to 2017, the state still saw over 100,000 crashes caused by distractions. However, accidents are more prevalent in some counties than in others. Bexar County, for instance, recorded over 24,000 distracted driving crashes in 2017 alone. Bexar’s crash total was approximately the same as Harris, Dallas and Travis Counties combined.
Girl looking at phone while driving
Girl looking at phone while driving Source: Getty Images

Worst counties for distracted driving in Texas

1. Bexar County

14.01 distracted driving crashes per 1,000 residents

Bexar County, with its largest city San Antonio, ranks as the worst large county for distracted driving in Texas. In 2017, there were 24,021 crashes caused by distracted drivers, which was down 9%, or 2,292 total crashes, from 2016. Bexar is one of the largest counties in the state, just behind Tarrant in population — but it has nearly three times as many distracted driving incidents per capita.

2. Wichita County

7.63 distracted driving crashes per 1,000 residents

Situated along the northern Oklahoma border, Wichita County had 1,003 distracted driving accidents in 2017 — zero of which were fatal. Stephen Santellana, mayor of the largest city, Wichita Falls, called texting and driving a "public safety concern" and an "epidemic".

3. Ellis County

5.98 distracted driving crashes per 1,000 residents

Ellis County, located just south of Dallas, was responsible for 895 distracted driving crashes in 2017, up 4% from the prior year. Ellis was the only county in the top five worst counties to see an increase in distracted driving crashes from the previous year — 31 additional accidents, to be exact.

4. Galveston County

5.87 distracted driving crashes per 1,000 residents

Southeast of Houston and along the Gulf of Mexico sits Galveston County. Here, there were 1,709 crashes caused by distracted drivers in 2017, eight of which were fatal. Neighboring Harris County, which contains the city of Houston, is the most populated county in Texas. However, residents of Harris County are 46% less likely to be in a distracted driving accident than Galveston County residents.

5. Hays County

5.49 distracted driving crashes per 1,000 residents

In Hays County, distracted driving crashes were down 9% from 2016. Just 863 total crashes were a result of distracted driving in 2017. While the number of distracted driving crashes has decreased, they have become more deadly. In 2015, zero of the 943 distracted driving accidents resulted in death, whereas in 2017, seven crashes were fatal. While the majority of Austin is in Travis County, small portions of the capital city also sit in Hays and Williamson Counties. Residents of Williamson County are 30% less likely to be involved in a distracted driving accident than Hays County residents.

A Graphic Of The Worst Counties In Texas For Distracted Driving Grouped by Size

Safest counties for distracted driving in Texas

The safest large county in Texas, Randall, saw a 31% decrease in distracted driving collisions and zero fatalities in 2017. Conversely, the safest midsize county, Bee, still saw a 19% increase in crashes between 2016 and 2017.

A Graphic Of The Safest Counties In Texas For Distracted Driving Grouped by Size

Most and least improved counties for distracted driving in Texas

Nueces County, home to Corpus Christi, showed the most significant percent change from 2016 to 2017, with a 50% decline in — or 605 fewer — distracted driving crashes. Nueces County district attorney Mark Gonzalez has been vocal about the need to limit distracted driving offenses, urging drivers to not let a "cell phone determine your fate".

On the other side of the state, Ector County and its largest city of Odessa had the greatest increase in distracted driving incidents, up 49% from 2016 to 2017, or 111 more crashes year over year.

A Graphic Of The Most and Least Improved Counties In Texas For Distracted Driving Grouped by Size

Distracted driving laws in Texas

The Texas Legislature passed a statewide texting-while-driving ban, effective September 2017, which also includes email and social media communications. Those responsible for distracted driving crashes could face a misdemeanor charge and a fine of up to $99 for first-time offenders and up to $200 for repeat offenders.

However, should the distracted driving accident cause serious injuries or death, offenders are subject to larger fines and even jail time. Drivers beware: some local areas have stricter ordinances in place beyond the statewide ban, which expand the law to encompass all cell phone usage while driving.

Distracted driving was the cause of 100,798 crashes in Texas in 2017, and this hazard can significantly impact car insurance rates for those drivers involved. The average cost of auto insurance in Texas is $2,330, and rates are subject to increase after distracted driving violations, as insurers view these drivers as an enhanced liability. License points may also be added to one's driving record for driver texting offenses.

What does Texas consider distracted driving?

The Texas Department of Transportation defines distracted driving as participating in any activity that removes your attention from the road. That includes, but is not limited to:

  • Texting
  • Talking on a mobile phone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Putting on makeup
  • Shaving
  • Reading
  • Programming a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting the radio

While talking on the phone hands-free or changing the radio station is not illegal, it still removes attention from the road and can cause a distraction to drivers. Texans surveyed, as part of the AT&T’s It Can Wait campaign, named their top five distractions while driving as:

  • Texting
  • Snapping and viewing photos
  • Playing music
  • Emailing
  • Accessing social media

Complete list of counties in Texas and their distracted driving rankings

Distracted driving crash rate per 1,000 residents
% change from 2016 to 2017
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ValuePenguin analyzed the total number of crashes caused by distracted driving, as reported by the Texas Department of Transportation. We compared distracted driving crashes to U.S. Census Bureau data across all Texas counties. By our definition, large counties have populations of over 75,000 residents, mid-sized counties have populations of 25,000 to 74,999 residents and small counties have populations of 5,000 to 24,999 residents. We removed Texas counties with 4,999 or fewer residents from analysis due to small sample size.