Feb 3, 2012

Phone-Using Drivers Are Worse than Drunk Drivers

Put this sign in your car
(Graphics by mzacha)
I just saw this Facebook story about how a child lost his dearly beloved mother and sister because they were hit by a drunk driver.

And so many commented on how terrible drunk drivers are.

I'm sure none of us here would be so irresponsible as to drive while under the influence of alcohol.

But how many of us are irresponsible enough to drive while talking on our cellphone? Even worse, how many of us are irresponsible enough to drive while texting?

Well here's news to chew on: Talking on the phone while driving is just as bad as driving while under the influence of alcohol.

In June 2006, a group of Utah psychologists found that people who talk on the cell phone are as impaired when they drive as people whose blood alcohol level is beyond the legal limit (in most U.S. states) of 0.08%.

This is true whether you hold the phone in your hands or use it hands-free. (For more details on the study, see "Drivers on Cell Phones Are as Bad as Drunks," published on the University of Utah News Center website.)

But that's not the end of the story. We haven't talked about texting while driving yet.

To be frank, I would say it's almost unnecessary to elaborate on this. If talking on the phone while driving is as bad as drunk driving, it should be obvious that texting while driving should be much worse, right?

But elaborate on it, I will. Let me repeat: People who text while driving are worse than drunk drivers!

In 2009, researchers from the Car and Drive Magazine did tests to see how quickly a texting driver can hit the brakes in case of an emergency, compared to an unimpaired driver and a drunk driver. Here are the results. Let them speak for themselves:

  • Unimpaired: 0.54 seconds to brake
  • Legally drunk: add 4 feet
  • Sending a text: add 70 feet 

Seventy feet! Oh come on, maybe the researchers were exaggerating. Yup, maybe it's just half -- 35 feet. Nah, let's put it at 15 feet.

How many feet of delayed braking do you need to kill a child and its mother? How many feet do you need to put your own family in danger?

Less than five.

So for all of us here who are quick to crucify people who drink and drive, let us be the first to cast the first phone. We shouldn't be holding it anyway while we're at the wheels.

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