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Which Is More Dangerous While Driving: Drinking or Texting?

 Posted on September 04,2018 in DUI

Santa Cruz, CA drunk driving defense attorneyFor decades, drunk driving was considered the most dangerous driving practice. However, in recent years, texting and cell phone usage give stiff competition for that top spot. Distracted driving leads to thousands of injuries and countless deaths every day in the United States. 

With today’s busy schedules, people often use their driving time as a prime opportunity to multitask. Distractions come from sources such as personal grooming, speaking to other passengers, and eating. Texting and other cell phone use is by far the most dangerous type of distraction. Given what we now know, considering both safety and the legal repercussions, which is the riskiest driving behavior: drinking or texting?

Safety Considerations

Overall, the prevalence of DUI is on a downward trend, while the frequency of texting while driving continues to rise. Although texting usually does not constantly affect a driver like driving while intoxicated does, it can cause a person to take their eyes off of the road for an unpredictable length of time. A distraction for even a split second increases the likelihood of an accident by 23%, a rate similar to the probability of an accident after drinking four beers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), both behaviors are equally impairing to a driver’s ability to drive. Consider the following statistics:

  • Taking your eyes off of the road for five seconds while texting is like driving the length of a football field blindfolded.
  • Sober drivers take 0.54 seconds to brake. While drunk drivers typically need an additional four feet to come to a complete stop, drivers who are reading a text require 36 feet to brake, and 70 feet while sending a message.
  • Reaction time decreases by 35% while texting but is only 12% slower while drunk.

Legal Consequences

California has strict laws surrounding cell phone use while driving. The practice of using a handheld wireless device is off limits to all drivers. Additionally, teens under the age of 18 are also forbidden from using any cell phone, even in a hands-free setting. Like texting, intoxicated driving (legally defined as having a blood alcohol content of at least .08%) endangers the public, so it is strictly forbidden to everyone behind the wheel. When making our comparison, we must also consider which has the longest-lasting legal repercussions on a driver’s future:

  • Texting while driving qualifies as a distraction, punishable by a fine of $20.00 for the first offense and $50.00 for each additional offense.
  • California punishes first time DUI offenders with up to six months in jail and fines of up to $1,000.00.

Facing DUI Charges?

There is no clear answer to whether drunk driving or distracted driving is more dangerous. Both practices have potentially fatal consequences. However, from a legal standpoint, one offense results in a quick slap on the wrist, while the other can lead to jail time and stiff fines. If you face DUI charges, you will want the assistance of a Santa Cruz DUI defense lawyer to help lessen the potential impact on your future. John W. Thornton, Attorney at Law has over 30 years of experience defending the rights of clients that stand accused of breaking California laws. Contact us today at 831-426-5800 to schedule your free initial consultation.


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