# Texting while driving more dangerous than driving while drunk

1. Jul 30, 2009

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/posted/archive/2009/07/28/texting-while-driving-more-dangerous-than-being-drunk.aspx [Broken]

Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
2. Jul 30, 2009

### Borg

And the ones who do it will tell that they are the exception.

3. Jul 30, 2009

### Alfi

23 times more dangerous than non-distracted driving.

What does that mean?
How dangerous is non-distracted driving?

4. Jul 30, 2009

### negitron

It obviously means you're 23 times more likely to be involved in a accident while texting than you would if you drive with no distractions. What did you think it meant?

5. Jul 30, 2009

### Alfi

I've never had an accident. 23 times nothing is not going to scare me.

6. Jul 30, 2009

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
The chance of an accident exists every time you get into your car whether you have had an accident or not. The risk is 23 times greater if you text while driving.

What's more, it affects not only you but everyone on the road around you. If you see someone texting while driving, you should report them to the police as you should a drunk driver. Likewise, if you are texting while driving [as the States pass laws against this] hopefully someone will report you as a danger to the public.

This is so serious that I can see people going to jail for it just like repeat offenders do for drunk driving.

Last edited: Jul 30, 2009
7. Jul 30, 2009

### leroyjenkens

Driving while talking on the phone is bad enough, but people who text while driving should have their licenses revoked.
Though I wonder how seriously they'll take it.
And even if a cop near you does come pull them over, unless the cop sees it, they could put their phone up and say you're lying.

8. Jul 30, 2009

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
Congress just said that they will revoke the Federal Highway funds for States that don't ban this practice. I suspect that soon the police will be taking this VERY seriously. Three times worse than driving drunk will get everyone's attention. Plus, the cops have to deal with the blood and guts of those who don't listen, so for them, issues like this become very personal.

The police are pretty good at hiding in your blind spot so they can watch what you're doing. If someone is texting, that person is even less likely to notice that they are being watched.

9. Jul 30, 2009

### mgb_phys

Do you really need a new law for this?
There are already laws against dangerous driving, or driving without due care.

These specific laws are just designed to get simple automatic convictions and like speed cameras are seen as just a way of raising money rather than preventing accidents.

The UK banned talking on a hand held 'cellular telephone' (specifically not to ban CBs, taxi radios and police radios) leaving aside research that suggests hands free is just as bad, it didn't ban texting. Because the law takes so long to go through the process that texting wasn't mainstream at the time.
So it goes back through the process to include texting, but then the new law doesn't include email or IM.
Then some clever lawyer got off on the basis that a VOIP (skype) call on a 3G smart phone isn't a 'cellular telephone call'.

But you could have prosecuted any of them for 'driving without due care and attention'

Last edited: Jul 30, 2009
10. Jul 30, 2009

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
I see your point, but a specific law makes it clear that the activity is dangerous. And as you said, if not texting specifically, a person could still be stopped for driving while distracted. It's not like the seatbelt law [which I oppose] in which the government is removing the right of choice based on arguments that can't be justified.

11. Jul 30, 2009

### maverick_starstrider

I want to see the statistics for texting, while drunk, while driving.

12. Jul 30, 2009

### cristo

Staff Emeritus
I reckon you should take probability 101.

13. Jul 30, 2009

### mgb_phys

The UK ban was based on a study that correlated phone calls with accidents.
Unfortunately the timing was only accurate to 15mins, so they couldn't say wether the call came before or after the crash.
They didn't log the call destination so don't know if someone was calling the emergency services.

Luckily the study wasn't extended to banning fire trucks which are linked to the majority of house fires.

14. Jul 30, 2009

### Pengwuino

I feel going the other direction is a better idea. If police start taking people in for reckless driving, which is already on the books (and everyone knows thats a serious offense), I think people would start seeing it as for what it really is, reckless driving. I think the problem is that texting feels so.... childish and personal. I think some people might see it as if the government asked to make singing in the car illegal. I don't feel like making it specifically banned is going to emphasize it's danger, instead it'll be seen as an invasion of privacy and an arbitrary draconian law.

If I got taken in for reckless driving, it'd be a much bigger hit mentally then if I got a ticket for "texting". Personally, for example the speeding ticket i got recently, if I got a ticket or taken in for reckless driving even though I knew i was simply speeding, I'd be far more compelled to drive safer in the future.

15. Jul 30, 2009

### Staff: Mentor

How long have you been driving? Odds are a person will have a handful of accidents in their life (there are 6 million reported a year and the population is 300 million)*, with the range being from small fender benders to something fairly bad. Imagine instead of your one fairly bad accident, you instead had 23? I'm 33 and I have totalled one car (I was in high school), put $1000 in damage on another and had one where I gave the guy I rear-ended$100 to pay for some bumper paint and his trouble. That's not an unusual driving history.

Or, put another way, your lifetime odds of dying in a car accident are about 10%. If I remember my stats correctly, if you always text while driving, that would make your lifetime odds of dying in a car accident about 94%.

*If the average lifespan is 75 and the average car accident involves 3 people, the average person will be involved in 4.5 accidents in their lifetime. So do you really want to add any sort of multiplier to that?

...something else to consider: if you texting increases your risk by 23x, what happens to the odds if you and the people around you are texting...?

Last edited: Jul 30, 2009
16. Jul 30, 2009

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
That's generally my perception of this. Yes, the "current" problem is texting and driving, and certainly I agree it's a problem...anything that requires taking your eyes off the road and hands off the steering wheel is an obvious distraction from driving...but I think that laws against texting and driving fail to address the more pervasive problem that people simply don't take driving very seriously and continue to find any number of ways to distract themselves, whether it be fishing around in their bag of fast food for one last french fry, texting, applying make-up or shaving in the rear-view mirror, watching videos, fiddling about trying to program their GPS gizmo, etc.

I very much agree that the problem is a failure to enforce the most basic driving laws.

And, yes, I also agree with Borg's point, that those who engage in these practices always insist they are the exceptions. This is just a general problem with human behavior, isn't it? Too many people have no perception that they cannot do other tasks while driving and still be a decent driver. They think they can "multi task," which may be true, but the problem is that driving already requires multi tasking, and adding more things to that overloads their brains. My boyfriend teases me when I tell him I KNOW I cannot talk on the phone and drive well and hang up on him if he calls me when I'm in the car (or ignore the phone if I'm around other vehicles...I live in an area where I can often be driving with nobody else on the road, which gives me a few moments to answer a phone and tell him to call back in 10 minutes when I'm home). I've explained to him that the only time I'll talk on the phone while driving is when I'm truly stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, because then the natural tendency to drive too slow helps keep me calm and there's not much need to pay attention, because I'm just sitting on the brake. He isn't very pleased when I also explain to him that in spite of his own notions, he CANNOT drive while talking on the phone and also insist on hanging up on him when I become aware he's calling me from the car. I absolutely HATE it when he does that. It leaves me feeling like the rare exception to be aware that I cannot pay attention to my driving and talking on the phone at the same time, so simply refuse to do so (not to mention I start running out of hands to hold the phone, the steering wheel, operate turn signals or windshield wipers, perhaps need to open or close a window, etc...I drive on very curvy roads, and if I drive at the speeds I like to drive, that requires both hands to control the car all by itself, and be prepared to swerve should deer run out in front of me, which I won't notice if I'm gabbing on the phone).

17. Jul 30, 2009

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
I don't understand how we get to invasion of privacy? We don't have the right to drink a beer while driving either [well, unless you are in Texas]. The fact is that we already have laws against driving while distracted, but it doesn't stop people from texting - including bus and train drivers! The problem is that the threat exists for all of us non-texters on the road even if the person isn't visibly driving recklessly.

How about a $1000 fine and loss of your license for 30 days on a first offense? Would that have the desired mental impact? How about a$5000 fine and thirty days in jail for the second offense. The penalty should be at least as severe as for driving while drunk.

Last edited: Jul 30, 2009
18. Jul 30, 2009

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
Another matter is the degree of distraction. Eating while driving is a distraction and may warrant a driving while distracted charge, but the degree of distraction is certainly less than that found while texting. The two situations are not comparable. It turns out that texting on the road make you an extreme threat to public safety.

19. Jul 30, 2009

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
Indeed, just living in a university town where everyone around me is babbling on their phones while driving seems to increase my risk. I haven't been in an accident yet, but I've sure had plenty of close calls with dingbats crossing the yellow line or cutting out in front of me while talking on the phone or texting as they pay no attention to anyone around them. The only reason those dingbats weren't in an accident is that I WASN'T on the phone and saw them in time to slam on the brakes or swerve. Not to mention when they disrupt traffic flow on the roads by driving a persistent 10 mph under the speed limit while everyone else is trying to pass them as they keep drifting over the lines of their lane. I certainly agree they are as bad or worse than drunk drivers. At least I usually only encounter drunk drivers around 2 AM when there aren't a lot of people on the roads. The driving while texting or driving while talking on the cell phone people are on the roads during rush hour.

20. Jul 30, 2009

### Pengwuino

I think that's how most people see it, I don't think they see it as a safety issue. In my experience, with seatbelts for example, most people basically see it as a safety issue. I don't think this exists in the public mindset about texting. People still see texting as just some innocent thing you do and it's the big bad government trying to tell you what you can and can't do... especially considering how people immediately seem to go to this "well im the exception" BS. Now mind you, I'm not saying it isn't a safety issue. I'm proposing how the public views it and how we can get them to change their minds seeing as all these studies don't seem to do the job.

Are you saying that should be the penalty for texting or for speeding? I think changing the mindset of drivers is less about the penalty than the connotation of the infraction. Personally, I don't think anyones ever thinking about the idea of a \$200+ bill associated with speeding and such when they do it.

Then again maybe I'm not in touch with the typical drivers mindset. Hell, the only reason I don't speed anymore is the pain in the behind associated with having ot go downtown and finding parking to go to the courthouse to pay the ticket.