As a lawyer who has concentrated in representing people injured in motor vehicle accidents for over 27 years, the nature of the crash cases I handle has changed dramatically over the last 8 years. Starting in 2009, I have seen a steady increase in serious injuries caused by distracted drivers, specifically drivers who are using their cell phones to talk, text, or other functions involving the use of the small phone keyboard.
By contrast, in the same period of time, I have seen an overall decrease in the amount of drunk and impaired driving accident cases. I credit this to a much more aggressive law enforcement effort, including checkpoints.
There is little doubt that distracted driving is becoming epidemic, more information is becoming available which points to the fact that the distracted driver is more dangerous than the driver who is driving impaired by drugs and/or alcohol. Consider the following:
- When unimpaired, it takes a person .54 seconds to hit the brakes
- When they are legally drunk, four feet of additional space is needed
- If reading an email, 36 additional feet of space is needed
- If sending a text, an addition 70 feet of space is needed
On average, it takes a person four times longer to react when reading a text or email while behind the wheel. Some of the specific reasons why distracted driving is more dangerous than drunk driving are further explained here.
More Distracted Drivers are on the Road
Cell phones are now considered a ubiquitous part of day to day life. In fact, at any given time there are significantly more distracted drivers on the road than drunk drivers. Also, distracted driving accidents take place more frequently when heavy traffic volumes are present, which increases the potential for a crash.
Distracted Driving Crashes Typically Involve No Reaction Time
While driving a car while intoxicated is extremely dangerous, many impaired drivers still possess some ability to react and avoid a dangerous collision. On the other hand, most distracted drivers aren’t even aware of the danger until they are colliding with another vehicle, tree or some other object. Naturally, this increases the probability of a collision. This makes distracted driving much more dangerous for the person engaging it, as well as others on the road.
Distracted Driving Crashes Tend To Be Violent
Because distracted drivers are paying no attention to the roadway, distracted driving collisions typically involve a severe force of impact. Accordingly, there is more risk of a serious injury or the potential for a fatality in a distracted driver crash. For instance, a rear-end impact at full force will undoubtedly cause a more significant strain/sprain injury to the soft tissues that support the neck (cervical spine). These type of injuries require a longer period of rehabilitation and cause a higher amount of permanent loss of mobility.
Given the above considerations, it is understandable to see why many traffic safety experts believe that distracted driving prevention is America’s top driving safety priority.