In observance of National Distracted Driving Month, the Texas Department of Transportation this week announced the launch of a statewide campaign that looks to curb dangerous behaviors behind the wheel.


The Heads up, Texas campaign kicked off in Waco and will continue on to 19 other Texas cities, where the agency will allow drivers to take part in a virtual-reality, distracted-driving simulation. The campaign is hosted in partnership with AT&T’s It Can Wait safe-driving initiative. According to TxDOT, nearly one in five crashes on Texas roads involve distracted driving — a trend that has persisted for the last three years.


“It’s extremely concerning that drivers still choose to give their attention to things other than the road when they’re behind the wheel,” TxDOT Executive Director James Bass said in an emailed press release. “As a society, we’re more connected than ever to our devices and easily tempted to multitask, but drivers need to understand all of these various distractions can lead to a tragic outcome.”


In its release, TxDOT said of the more than 100,000 Texas crashes which involved distracted driving last year, 444 people were killed and 2,889 sustained serious injuries. In September, the state of Texas made it illegal for motorists to read, write and send text messages while driving and the offense punishable by a fine of up to $200.


Though texting while driving has been outlawed in the state, AT&T survey results cited in the TxDOT release indicated that Texas motorists are still distracted by other smartphone activities, including taking photos, emailing, accessing social media and playing music.


“…the majority of Texans ages 15-54 admit to driving distracted because of their smartphone,” the release said. “Additionally, nearly all Texans surveyed consider smartphone distractions to be dangerous while driving, but nearly 9 out of 10, or 89 percent, admit they do it.”


AT&T Assistant Vice President of Corporate Brand Marketing Ryan Luckey said the company was glad to partner with TxDOT and the campaign would help spread the word that distracted driving is never acceptable.


“We’re proud to join TxDOT in sharing that message with Texans through revealing survey data and events that highlight the dangers and the new (texting) law,” Luckey said in the release.