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Driving While Intexticated: Texting vs. Drinking and Driving

Everyone has their own routine before they get behind the wheel – make sure the coffee isn’t still on the roof of the car, buckle up, look up directions in your phone’s navigation system, and crack open that third beer… WHOA! Okay, it’s fairly safe to assume that every driver knows how stupid it is to drive after drinking. But did you also know that texting and driving is six times more dangerous than driving drunk? Between catching up on emails, giving a “thumbs up” for a new song on Pandora, and triple checking the directions, today’s drivers are inundated with ways to become distracted on the road, and the statistics are startling.

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There are three main types of distraction – visual (taking your eyes off the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel), and cognitive (taking your mind off driving) – and unfortunately, there are plenty of reasons that a driver may become distracted. With cell phones becoming “smarter” and drivers feeling the need to multitask and stay connected, the issue of texting and driving as it relates to safety is becoming more prevalent. Considering that, in 2011 at least 23% of all auto accidents involved a cell phone (that’s 1.3 million crashes), and texting while driving combines all three of the distraction types, texting and driving is quickly climbing the ranks of the most dangerous and deadly actions.

Given that roughly 80% of new drivers in America ages 16-17 will own a cell phone, and the number one cause of death among teens in the US is motor vehicle accidents, researchers have launched simulators to study the real effects of distractions while driving. A local news station, Fox 31 Denver, put three local drivers to the test in a non-scientific simulator they call “Driving While Intexticated. The participants first drove through the simulated course while receiving and responding to text messages. The participants were then given alcohol and were tested driving through the simulator at a BAC level above the legal limit of .08. Participant Erika Nunez, 26 of Denver notes, “When I was drinking I felt like I had no distractions but the road, the road was my only distraction.  When I was texting, I kept looking down, looking up, looking down; I had a lot of distractions.”

A similar test was administered by Car and Driver Magazine to assess how long it takes drivers to react and stop a vehicle when sober, when legally impaired at a BAC level of .08, when reading an email, and when sending a text. On average, sober drivers take 0.54 seconds to react and hit the brakes. For legally drunk drivers, 4 feet of additional stopping distance was necessary to avoid a collision. An additional 36 feet was needed in order to stop while reading an email, and an astounding 70 feet was needed when sending a text. In one participant’s worst reaction times, the driver needed an extra 17 feet when impaired and an additional 319 feet of stopping distance in order to soberly reply to a text while driving.

Yet another study found that this type of risky behavior is often a gateway for teens to participate in other risky driving activities. Teens who text and drive, or are comfortable riding in a car while the driver is texting, are nearly twice as likely to ride with a driver who has been drinking, and 5 times more likely to drink and drive than teens who don’t text while driving.

One of the most dangerous aspects of texting and driving is that many drivers don’t think that it’s a problem. In fact, around 77% of young adults feel that they can safely text while driving, with 55% also commenting that they find it to be easy. However, with the longest eyes-off-the-road time of all distracted driving activities, and causing drivers to spend about 10% of their drive time outside of their lane, texting and driving makes a crash up to 23 times more likely. And here’s the scary part – you can be effected by texting and driving without even owning a cell phone! Time and again we hear stories in the news, from friends, and from clients about how another driver was texting moments before a collision that greatly impacted their life. Now, picture yourself driving during your morning commute; and now picture it knowing that nearly half of all adult drivers text and drive, even though they know it’s unsafe – your morning commute just became the most dangerous part of your day.

So, unless you plan to increase your following distance by approximately 319 feet, and hopefully you would never even consider driving while intoxicated, here’s something new to add to your routine – put away your phone, and keep your mind focused on the drive. Talk about it with your friends and coworkers, and do your part to keep the roads safe and share this information with others, because Friends Don’t Let Friends Text and Drive!

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident involving a distracted driver or drunk driver, call the experienced Denver personal injury attorneys at the Bendinelli Law Firm for a free and confidential consultation today. We’ll help you get the help you need.