Texting While Driving: More Dangerous Than DUI?

Critton, Luttier and Coleman LLP Blog

By: Dean Xenick, Esq.

Critton, Luttier & Coleman encourages you to participate in the American Automobile Association (AAA), the Department of Transportation, and Seventeen magazine’s “Two-Second Turnoff Day” by taking two seconds to turn ioff your cell phone before driving. It could save a life.

It is common knowledge that drinking and driving is one of the most dangerous activities undertaken with a motor vehicle and should never be attempted; however, new studies are now suggesting that texting while driving could be even more dangerous than driving while under the influence of alcohol. 

In the August 2, 2010, edition of Seventeen magazine, “texting while driving is among the riskiest of common driving distractions. According to AAA, taking your eyes off of the road for two seconds doubles your risk of getting into a crash. Nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver and more than a half million were injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.” 

Unfortunately, texting is on the rise, up from 9.8 billion messages a month in December 2005 to 110.4 billion in December 2008. And even though 84 percent of teen drivers know it’s dangerous, almost nine in 10 teenage drivers (86 percent) have driven while distracted.

Car and Driver magazine, in an effort to show the real world consequences of texting while driving, pitted texting while driving against drinking and driving in an “unofficial” test on a private, closed airport runway. First, a baseline reading of reaction time was taken, by mounting a light to the windshield of a test vehicle at eye level, meant to simulate a lead car’s brake lights. When the red light on the windshield lit up, the driver was instructed to hit the brakes.

First, they tested both drivers’ reaction times at 35 mph and 70 mph, while sober and without any distractions, to get the baseline readings. This procedure was repeated while the drivers read a text message on their phone aloud, which was then followed by a trial with the drivers typing the same message they had just received. All drivers were told to use their phones exactly as they would on a public road.

Once the baseline and texting tests were done, the test drivers then got out of the vehicle and drank beverages containing three ounces of alcohol. After each drink, the drivers blew into a breath-alcohol analyzer until they reached the impaired drunk driving limit of 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content. They then repeated the red light brake test without any texting distraction. The results showed that texting while driving resulted in worse driver reaction times than drunk driving. In some of the worst cases in the test, the amount of roadway needed to stop the vehicle while texting was up to 10 times longer, more than while impaired. For example, if while intoxicated it took a subject vehicle 31 feet to come to a stop, that number increased to 319 ft. while writing a text message.  Those are staggering numbers.

Since both texting and intoxication led to longer stopping distances, the folks at Car and Driver say, “the key element to driving safely is keeping your eyes and your mind on the road. Text messaging distracts any driver from that primary task. So the next time you’re tempted to text, tweet, e-mail, or otherwise type while driving, either ignore the urge or pull over.” 

Therefore, on September 17th, Seventeen magazine, AAA and the Department of Transportation are asking everyone to save a life and participate in the “Seventeen Two-Second Turnoff Day by taking two seconds to turn off their cell phone before driving. Instead of spending two seconds looking away from the road while driving distracted, use those two seconds to turn off your phone before you get behind the wheel.” Better yet, start this practice the next time you get into your vehicle. And, as always, never drink and drive.

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