Which Is More Dangerous: DUI or Driving While Using a Cell Phone?
With cell phones becoming ubiquitous in our lives, using them in the car has become commonplace. But is talking on the phone safer than drinking and driving? What about texting and driving? The numbers are in, and the clear winner is… not doing any of the above.
Drinking and driving and distracted driving among college students were found to have very similar results in testing done during a study done by Harvard University. During their tests of 40 participants, those who used a cell phone “drove slightly slower, were 9 percent slower to hit the brakes, displayed 24 percent more variation in following distance as their attention switched between driving and conversing, were 19 percent slower to resume normal speed after braking, and were more likely to crash.” In fact, three of the participants actually rear-ended the pace car during the experiment. None of the drivers were drunk during this phase; they were all simply talking on their cell phones.
In the same study, drunk drivers didn’t fare any better. These drivers “drove a bit more slowly than both undistracted drivers and drivers using cell phones, yet more aggressively. They followed the pace car more closely, were twice as likely to brake only four seconds before a collision would have occurred, and hit their brakes with 23 percent more force.” Interestingly, though, “Neither accident rates, nor reaction times to vehicles braking in front of the participant, nor recovery of lost speed following braking, differed significantly from undistracted drivers.” Participants had a blood alcohol level of more than 0.08 percent.
The results from the Utah study have been backed by several other studies on the same subject. In 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported more than 5,000 fatalities and more than half a million injuries due to accidents caused by drivers who were distracted. This statistic includes distractions other than cell phones but shows that driving while distracted is dangerous and sometimes deadly.
The biggest distraction in the car today is texting, especially among young drivers. According to a study by Cohen Children’s Medical Center, more than 3,000 teens die annually in accidents directly related to texting while driving. And according to NHTSA, driving while texting is six times more dangerous than drunk driving.
An in-state study also revealed that in Texas, “texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash than non-texting drivers” This information came directly from David Strickland, the administrator of the Texas Traffic Safety Conference.
To put all of this information in a real-world situation, the average time it takes to read and respond to a text message is about 4.6 seconds. If you are driving at 55 mph, your car would cover the length of a football field while you weren’t looking.
It doesn’t take a genius to see the dangers of texting and driving, yet we see it on the roads every day. When you get behind the wheel, put your phone in your pocket. There’s nothing so important that it can’t wait until you’ve gotten where you’re going to find out.
By Ted Burgess