Texting and Driving versus Drinking and Driving

Distracted Driving: Is that Driver Drunk or Just on their Phone?

Imagine the following scenario: you are driving down the interstate after a hard day of work when the car in front of you nonchalantly veers into your lane causing you to slam on the brakes and honk your horn. In turn, the car behind you slams on their brakes and honks at you. This of course upsets you even more, so you speed up to give the original troublemaker a stern staring and possibly another loud honking. As you glance across your window into their car you see a person talking on their cell phone who seemingly has not a clue what just happened. For most of us who commute, this scenario occurs frequently.

It seems like common sense that driving on your cell phone could lead to dangerous results, but just how dangerous is what researchers and professors from the University of Utah were determined to find out in their article A Comparison of the Cell Phone Driver and the Drunk Driver. In their study comprised of forty adults from various backgrounds, they set out to determine whether the relative risks of being in a traffic accident while using a cell phone are similar to those associated with driving with a blood alcohol level at the legal limit. Using a state-of-the-art driving simulator, each participant did three trial runs: once while talking on a cell phone, once while at the legal blood alcohol limit of .08%, and once while sober and not on a phone (the baseline test). The study focused on the reaction time to a braking car in front and how much time it took the driver to get back to the speed of traffic. The results were rather disturbing, but most likely not shocking if you had much experience dealing with drivers who are on their cell phones.

When drivers were conversing on their cell phones, they were involved in five times as many rear-end accidents than baseline conditions, their reaction time to a braking car in front of them was slowed by 9%, the variability in the distance they followed the cars in front of them increased by 24%, and they took 19% longer to recover the speed that was lost during braking compared to the baseline trial. When they were driving at the legal alcohol limit, the drivers tended to drive more aggressively, but overall performed moderately better than when on their cell phones and had fewer accidents. This led the researchers to conclude that driving on your cell phone is most likely just as dangerous or more dangerous as driving while intoxicated.

The study made several other interesting findings. For example, people who regularly talked on their cell phone while driving did not perform any better than people who do proving that the “I do it all the time” rationale for driving and talking on the phone actually holds no weight whatsoever as one does not simply “get better at” driving and using their cell phone simultaneously over time. Interestingly, this study also supported previous research that a driver using a hands-free device—such as Bluetooth—is just as impaired as drivers conversing on a regular cellphone. This study, along with several others, question the effectiveness of state statutes that permit hands-free device use while banning traditional cell phone use.

As this study has shown, the distractions caused by cell phone use while driving are very real and will only increase as people become more accustomed to driving this way. Being that the risks and dangers involved here are similar to those of driving under the influence of alcohol, state legislatures should really consider regulating the use of cell phones by drivers in order to keep the roads a relatively safe place.

If you or a loved on has been injured by a drunk or distracted driver, please do not hesitate to contact a Fort Worth Car Accident Lawyer at Hutchison & Stoy, PLLC today for help. You can contact us at the office at (817) 820-0100 or submit a free case evaluation.