Meredith Land, NBC 5 News
Dallas police say that many people who text while driving don't realize that their cellphones can injure them during a car crash.
Texting and driving can be deadly, but many drivers don't think about how cellphones can injure them during a crash, Dallas police say.
"You could be poking eyes out and cracking skulls, all kinds of things if that is happening," Senior Cpl. Kevin Navarro said.
The department's traffic division said it sees a lot of minor accidents with major injuries to drivers.
"The cellphone is usually right in front of the airbag," Sgt. Paul Hinton said.
Hinton and his team set up a dummy demonstration to illustrate the impact when an airbag going 100 mph hits a cellphone.
"We've got a dummy because we couldn't find anyone willing to sit in front of this for us and we've got a cellphone in about the area where a person would use it to text," he said. "What we're going to do is remotely deploy this airbag to where that cellphone [is], suspended very lightly so it should go wherever the energy from the air bag sends it," he said.
Hinton deployed three airbags. Each time, the cellphone hit the dummy in the neck or square in the face.
"It looks like it may have hit him in the face," he said. "If that was a person, no doubt they would be on the way to the emergency room with some pretty bad injuries."
According to Texas Department of Transportation crash statistics, there were 308 crashes in Dallas County in 2011 in which cellphone use was a contributing factor. One of the crashes was deadly.
Tarrant County had 197 such crashes; Collin County had 105, including a fatal crash in which a cellphone was a contributing factor; and Denton County had 88, including a deadly crash involving a cellphone.
Dallas police train their officers about the dangers of texting and driving. Navarro said drivers who are texting are more focused on their cellphones than the roadway.
He put NBC 5's Meredith Land and Remeisha Shade through a distracted driving course for officers at Fair Park that is modeled after an FBI course.
He asked them to wind through Fair Park at 20 mph while officers distracted them. They were asked to change the radio station and obstacles, such as a fake dog and a bouncing ball, came at them. They were asked to drive in reverse while counting backward from 39 and text while driving through cones.
Land almost hit the fake dog, missed a number when counting backward and killed some cones while texting.
"You did hit cones, and we were only going 20 mph," Navarro said. "Can you imagine what it's like when people are driving on the freeways and they're doing the same thing?"