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Distracted Driving Awareness Month: Is Distraction More Dangerous Than Impairment?

For many people, driving is unavoidable. They need to drive to get to school, work, even to the grocery store. It’s also one of the most dangerous activities most people regularly engage in—and it can be made significantly more dangerous by making a few bad decisions behind the wheel.

The risks associated with two of those choices—speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs—are well-known, highly publicized, and extensively documented. In addition, police throughout Oklahoma heavily enforce laws around these behaviors with radar guns and DUI checkpoints. However, a new dangerous behavior is starting to catch up: distracted driving.

Distracted Driving Is a Dangerous Driving Epidemic

While there are many ways for drivers to become distracted, the increased number of drivers who aren’t paying attention and get in accidents can almost singlehandedly be attributed to cellphones. Pew Research says that 96% of Americans own a cellphone, and most of those are smartphones, which are even more distracting due to their bright, colorful screens and multitude of apps.

The increased scrutiny of distracted driving, as well as the ever-growing number of distracted driving accidents and deaths, has led many to question whether it’s more dangerous than driving under the influence. Most people who use their phones while driving would say that they’re fully in control of their vehicles while reading or sending a quick email or text message, but in reality, the human brain is poor at multitasking. Using a phone is highly distracting, and it significantly increases drivers’ risk of crashing.

What Do the Numbers Say?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 30 people die in drunk driving crashes in the U.S. every day. That’s one person every 50 minutes, and more than 10,000 deaths annually. In comparison, 3,166 people were killed in distracted driving crashes in 2017 in the U.S. On the surface, it appears that impaired driving is more than three times deadlier than distracted driving, but those numbers don’t tell the whole story.

First, it’s difficult to determine whether a driver was distracted in the moments leading up to an accident. Second, distracted driving is a growing epidemic, especially with younger generations growing up using smartphones every day. And despite states across the U.S. enforcing stricter cellphone and texting-while-driving bans, drivers still refuse to give up their phones while they’re behind the wheel.

Studies Shed More Light on the Issue

USA Today and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety report that drivers were spotted using their phones 57% more frequently in 2018 than they were in 2014. According to the report, that increase is due to the way people interact with their phones now. Instead of using them to make or receive calls, drivers are more likely to use them for texting, browsing the internet, navigating to their destinations, and selecting music.

In addition, a 2006 study conducted by researchers at the University of Utah compared driving abilities of people who were using their cell phones with people who are legally intoxicated. After observing their driving abilities without impairment or distraction and comparing them to their results after consuming alcohol or using cellphones, they determined that both hands-on and hands-free cellphone users showed greater levels of driver impairment than the intoxicated participants.

What Are the Most Common Types of Distraction?

Cell phone usage is the most common focal point for distracted driving awareness campaigns, and for good reason—it occupies the top four spots for activities that distract drivers. According to USA Today, they are:

  • Talking on a hand-held cellphone
  • Using a hand-held cellphone
  • Holding a hand-held cellphone
  • Wearing a Bluetooth earpiece/headset with mic
  • Wearing headphones or earbuds
  • Using an in-vehicle infotainment system
  • Talking or singing
  • Eating or drinking
  • Smoking
  • Grooming

We’re Here to Help Anyone Injured by a Negligent Driver

At Parrish DeVaughn, we know that there are many hazards and risk factors that drivers must consider every time they get behind the wheel. Even the safest drivers, including those who never speed, drive while impaired, or become distracted, must contend with drivers who do. And when those negligent drivers cause crashes, we believe that innocent victims deserve maximum compensation for their medical bills and lost wages.

If you or someone you love was hurt in a crash caused by an impaired, distracted, or reckless driver, we want to help. We know what it takes to build strong claims that get results, and we want to put our experience to work for you. Contact us today for a free consultation. Our Oklahoma auto accident attorneys are standing by and ready to get started on your claim.