Are Drivers Using Cell Phones More Dangerous than Drunk Drivers?

During the Labor Day holiday weekend in 2014, six people died in motor vehicle accidents in Missouri, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol. It reported 94 arrests for drunk driving over the holiday period that year.

The agency has stated it will again be making a strong presence this Labor Day weekend, with all available officers patrolling the state’s busiest highways and interstates. Certainly drunk drivers will be a primary concern for law enforcement, but research indicates that distracted drivers are even more dangerous.

Car and Driver magazine conducted a study of distracted drivers in 2009. Drivers’ reaction times to a red light mounted on the car’s windshield – designed to simulate brake lights of a leading vehicle – were measured while they texted and then again after drinking alcohol to the legal limit of .08 blood alcohol content, while driving at 35 mph and at 70 mph.

The drivers first drove without distractions or alcohol to establish their reaction time baselines.

Texting Drivers React Slower than Drunk Drivers

The results? The drivers had slower braking times while texting than when they were legally drunk behind the wheel. These findings echoed those of an earlier study conducted by the University of Utah. Their researchers found that drivers talking on a cell phone, even while using it hands-free, were more distracted than when they were legally impaired by alcohol.

In another 2009 study, conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, researchers found that texting drivers on average took their eyes off the road for five seconds. Going 55 mph, that amounts to an extra stopping distance of about a football field.

In 2014, the Transport Research Laboratory found the drivers it tested had slower reaction times by 12 percent when using alcohol but 35 percent slower while using cell phones.

Given the delayed reaction times of distracted motorists, it’s not hard to imagine the increased dangers of big-rig drivers using cell phones. Unfortunately, we’ve seen numerous fatal accidents caused by distracted truck drivers despite federal regulations that ban commercial motor vehicle drivers from texting while driving.

Drunk Driving Decreasing While Distracted Driving Increasing

Compounding the dangers of distracted drivers is that the number of people who drink and drive has steadily dropped in recent years, but the number of people texting and driving is rising.

There may be more drunk drivers this Labor Day weekend than on most weekends, but chances are there will be more drivers on their cell phones throughout the year. If you had a loved one killed or if you were seriously injured by a distracted car or truck driver, an attorney who handles catastrophic car and trucking accident cases can hold the negligent parties responsible for your loss.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.