Is distracted driving more dangerous than drunk driving? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the answer is yes – six times more dangerous.
Based on the NHTSA report, more than half of all motorists engage in some type of secondary behavior while driving, which is a factor in more than a million auto accidents every year, and 16% of fatal accidents. Texting while driving is, by far, the most common distracted driving activity. Texting takes the driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, and increases the chances of a crash by 23%. To put that in perspective, if the car is moving at 55mph, the average driver would not be looking at the road for almost the entire length of a football field while texting.
Car and Driver Magazine recently performed an experiment to document how dangerous texting while driving can be, compared to drunk driving. For the experiment, they rigged cars with a red light to alert drivers when to brake. There was a control set to measure how long it would take drivers to hit the brakes when sober, then additional measurements at a BAC of .08, then when reading an e-mail and sending a text.
When sober, focused drivers took an average of 0.54 seconds to brake. For legally drunk drivers, four feet needed to be added to the braking distance. An additional 36 feet of stopping room was necessary for reading an e-mail, and 70 feet more was needed for sending a text.
Ten states have made moves to curtail this type of activity, prohibiting all drivers from using cell phones, including with handsfree devices. 32 states and Washington, D.C. forbid drivers from using cell phones in their hand while driving, and 39 states plus Washington, D.C. prohibit all drivers from texting.