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Distraction is Officially More Dangerous Than Drinking

An interesting statistic from 2005 recently got our attention.

It seems that the number of traffic fatalities from drunk driving over the past twenty years has gone down, but the number of fatalities from accidents where no alcohol was involved has gone up.

These numbers would seem to suggest that your chances of getting killed by a drunk driver are actually less than that of getting killed by someone who hasn’t had anything to drink at all.

Here are some more interesting facts:

§  Distracted driving is the number one killer of American teens. Alcohol-related accidents among teens have dropped. But teenage traffic fatalities have remained unchanged, because distracted driving is on the rise. (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance Study and NHTSA Study)

§  While over 90% of teen drivers say they don't drink and drive, nine out of 10 say they've seen passengers distracting the driver, or drivers using cell phones. (National Teen Driver Survey)

§  Brain power used while driving decreases by 40% when a driver listens to conversation or music. (Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University Study)

§  More than 80% of drivers admit to blatantly hazardous behavior: changing clothes, steering with a foot, painting nails and shaving. (Nationwide Mutual Insurance Survey)

§  Drivers on mobile phones are more impaired than drivers at .08 BAC. (University of Utah Study)


While we certainly don’t approve of drunk driving, (we find the practice deplorable and extremely dangerous,) these numbers have helped us realize that distracted drivers are just as if not more dangerous than someone who gets behind the wheel of a car while drunk.


The reasons for this are two-fold. First, as a society, many of us are overworked and stressed out. We are sleep deprived and constantly dealing with schedule changes or family obligations. We take children to school, then soccer or baseball practice, or ballet, or music lessons. We manage households as well as careers. Almost everyone has many plates spinning at once.

Secondly, automobiles are not just a means of transportation. They are offices, communication centers, and entertainment centers as well. This means that people drive while talking on the phone, while putting on makeup, while steering with their knees, while changing the DVD that their children are watching in the backseat, while eating with one hand while steering with the other, while talking on the phone or while even sending a text message on the phone.

The benefit of all this technology that allows all of us to communicate with each other instantly also has its costs. For instance, just because you can talk on the phone to a client or friend while driving on the highway doesn’t mean that you should. Just because you can send a text message to your friends or co-workers while driving doesn’t mean that you should.

Now that cars are built better and easier to drive, people seem to forget that they are traveling at high rates of speeds. Now that cars are easier to steer, people think that it’s okay to steer with their knees for awhile. Now that we have navigation systems that tell us where to go and when to turn, people seem to pay less attention to the road.

The automobile has become the home of the secondary activity, when the one and only thing that should be focused on is driving safely and responsibly.

Our state governments have done an admirable job in lowering the rates of drunk driving by putting harsher penalties on the books. Groups like MADD have done wonders in informing teenagers and other drivers everywhere about the dangers of driving drunk. As a result, the overall fatality rates have gone down significantly.

It seems that a similar focus should be made on not only punishing those who drive while drowsy or distracted, but also educating the public on the consequences of distracted driving.

As personal injury attorneys, we can tell you that the consequences of distracted driving are very real. We have represented clients who have had their lives upended simply because another driver was talking on the phone or text messaging when they should have been concentrating on the task at hand.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident due to negligent driving, contact our offices for a free legal consultation today.