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Distracted Driving vs. Drunk Driving: Which Is Worse?

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Truck driver reads text message on smart phone while driving transport vehicle. distracted driving vs drunk driving

Drunk driving and distracted driving are both dangerous, but studies have found that distracted driving is actually more dangerous than driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. However, it’s important to avoid driving while distracted or impaired at all times to minimize the risk of serious accidents and injuries.

Truck driver reads text message on smart phone while driving transport vehicle. distracted driving vs drunk driving

Learn more about the dangers of distracted driving vs. drunk driving, and why distracted driving is considerably more dangerous.

Is Distracted Driving Worse Than Drunk Driving?

Distracted and impaired driving are both highly dangerous and pose significant risks of accidents. However, distracted driving is more dangerous than drunk driving because of its effects on reaction time.

Although impaired driving can significantly decrease a driver’s awareness and reaction time, distractions can lead to even slower reaction times.

One study found that distracted driving is considerably more dangerous than drunk driving. Specifically, the study looked at the effects of texting and driving, reading an email and driving, and driving while under the influence of alcohol to the point of legal intoxication, which involves a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher.

According to the results of the study, the activity that had the biggest effect on people’s ability to drive was texting while driving. The study found that drivers traveled an additional 70 feet before braking when texting, 36 feet when reading an email, and four feet when intoxicated. This study alone reveals just how dangerous distracted driving can be.

What Is Considered Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving involves operating a motor vehicle of any kind while distracted in any way. There are multiple types of distracted driving that can affect a driver’s performance and reaction time.

The three main types of distractions that can impair drivers include:

  • Visual — These are distractions that that take the driver’s eyes off the road. They could include text messages, dashboard notifications, billboards on the side of the road, or other visual distractions that temporarily attract the viewer’s attention.
  • Manual — These distractions cause drivers to remove their hands from the steering wheel. Examples of these distractions may include typing text messages or otherwise interacting with cell phones, adjusting radio or dashboard dials or buttons, eating or drinking, or engaging physically with other distractions in the vehicle.
  • Cognitive — Some distractions could cause drivers to take their mind off the task of driving. For instance, a driver could be experiencing stress and not pay attention to the road.

What Are the Dangers of Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is dangerous and can lead to a car accident by removing drivers’ attention from the task of driving and reducing their reaction time. Whether visual, manual, or cognitive in nature, a distraction could easily lead to texting and driving deaths or serious injuries resulting from distracted driving.

Even removing attention from the road for as little as a second could lead to an accident if the driver doesn’t have time to react to an obstacle or an unexpected event in the road.

The Dangers of Drunk Driving

Distracted driving is potentially more dangerous than drunk driving, but it’s important not to underestimate just how dangerous drunk driving really is. Drunk driving is among the leading causes of serious accidents because of its effects on drivers’ behavior and reaction time. Drunk driving can cause a degree of impairment that makes drivers less aware of the road and often leads to cognitive distractions that can make it a form of distracted driving. Drivers under the influence of drugs and alcohol are also often unable to react in time to avoid accidents, even if they are paying attention to the road and their surroundings.

Drivers may become more aggressive and reckless as they lose their inhibitions while driving, which further increases the risk of accidents.

Distracted Driving Accident Statistics vs. Drunk Driving Statistics

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), driving while texting is as much as six times more dangerous than impaired driving. One of the main types of distractions that is responsible for many accidents is texting or reading while driving, which can distract drivers for up to around five seconds or longer, enough time to prevent drivers from reacting in time to avoid accidents, especially at high speeds.

According to statistics from the NHTSA, 3,522 people died in 2021 because of distracted driving. While this is far less than the over 10,000 killed by drunk driving every year, distracted driving generally tends to be more impactful on driving behavior, and it’s harder to prove that an accident resulted from distracted driving than drunk driving.

A growing number of people are using smartphones and other mobile devices, which is one of the main reasons distracted driving is becoming a bigger issue. People’s vehicle dashboards are also becoming increasingly interactive, with old-fashioned dials and other elements giving way to complex dashboard features that offer more features.

What to Do After an Accident Resulting from Drunk or Distracted Driving

Whether an accident results from impaired or distracted driving, there are some key steps that people can take to get the treatment they need, file police reports, and recover compensation in a car accident claim or lawsuit.

The following are the steps to take in the event of an accident:

Stop the Vehicle

If you are driving a vehicle at the time of the accident, the first step is to bring the vehicle to a complete stop. You should also pull the vehicle to a safe spot on the side of the road, if possible, and check everyone in the vehicle to see if they’ve sustained any injuries.

Also, try to remain calm, which will help you think clearly and handle the accident appropriately.

Seek Immediate Medical Attention if Needed

If you or another individual in the accident sustain injuries in need of immediate care, wait for an ambulance to arrive at the scene of the accident or dial 9-1-1 yourself when possible. Medical professionals can then provide treatment to anyone who requires it and take them to a nearby hospital.

Contact the Police

If the accident resulted in injuries or extensive damage, or if you suspect that another driver was impaired at the time of the accident, contact the police. Law enforcement officers at the scene will begin drafting a police report that details the accident and any resulting damages. This report may support a claim or lawsuit if you decide to seek compensation from liable parties. Police officers could also test drivers they suspect are intoxicated to determine their BAC level and potentially make an arrest for driving under the influence (DUI).

Obtain the Other Driver’s Information

Get all relevant information from the other drivers involved in the accident, including their names, phone numbers, addresses, license and license plate numbers, and insurance information. These details could help you initiate a claim or lawsuit against the liable driver or his or her insurer.

Collect Evidence at the Scene of the Accident

Collect as much evidence as possible at the accident scene and of any injuries or damages resulting from the accident. This evidence could include photos and video footage of vehicle damage, skid marks, property damage, and injuries immediately after the accident or in the days following. Even if you are unable to record this evidence at the scene shortly after the accident, you may be able to revisit the scene afterward.

You should also collect information from any witnesses who were present at the scene of the accident, including names and contact details. Police reports could also contain witness statements, but you and an attorney may also be able to request statements from these individuals at a later date.

See a Doctor

One of the most important pieces of evidence in any type of car accident case includes medical records and bills. These documents can help prove the nature of your injuries and show that they resulted from the accident. The importance of this evidence makes it necessary to see a doctor as soon as you can after an accident to receive a formal diagnosis and begin generating critical documentation. You’ll also begin the recovery process to help you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI).

Consult an Attorney

A distracted driving or drunk driving accident lawyer can also help you determine if you have a case and which steps to take to build one. It’s often worth it to speak with a lawyer to assess your case if you have sustained injuries or extensive damages to determine the viability of a claim or lawsuit, largely because many of these attorneys offer free consultations that don’t come with any costs.

Although distracted driving is statistically more dangerous than drunk driving, both types of driving come with serious consequences that make it crucial for drivers to avoid driving while distracted or under the influence.

About the Author

Kurt D. Lloyd is a plaintiff’s trial lawyer who focuses on medical malpractice and other catastrophic injury cases. He lives in Chicago and represents injured clients throughout Illinois. He is also the founder of Lloyd Miller Law, Ltd.

Years of Experience: Over 35 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar Admissions: Illinois State Bar

Kurt D. Lloyd is a plaintiff’s trial lawyer who focuses on medical malpractice and other catastrophic injury cases. He lives in Chicago and represents injured clients throughout Illinois. He is also the founder of Lloyd Miller Law, Ltd.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois

Kurt D. Lloyd is a plaintiff’s trial lawyer who focuses on medical malpractice and other catastrophic injury cases. He lives in Chicago and represents injured clients throughout Illinois. He is also the founder of Lloyd Miller Law, Ltd.

Years of Experience: Over 35 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar Admissions: Illinois State Bar

Kurt D. Lloyd is a plaintiff’s trial lawyer who focuses on medical malpractice and other catastrophic injury cases. He lives in Chicago and represents injured clients throughout Illinois. He is also the founder of Lloyd Miller Law, Ltd.

Years of Experience: Over 35 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar Admissions: Illinois State Bar