Study Reveals Something More Dangerous Than Driving Intoxicated

Drinking and driving greatly impairs a driver's ability, yet there exists something even worse than being intoxicated behind the wheel. Texting. It's a seemingly harmless task, but creates an incredibly hazardous combination when done while driving. As you'll discover below, texting while driving reduces reaction time significantly more than intoxication.

Texting Vs. Drinking – The Test

Car and Driver editors put the texting-while-driving vs. drinking-while-driving argument to the test. A crew mounted the test vehicle Honda Pilot with a red light at windshield eye level to simulate brake lights. When this light lit up, the driver was to brake as quickly as possible. Drivers used full “QWERTY” key pad cell phones— an iPhone and Samsung Alias— that they were familiar with using for the text/email tests. Drivers then got intoxicated to 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level (BAC) for the legally drunk test. The results, posted on CNBC, were as follows:

  • Unimpaired: .54 seconds to brake.
  • Legally drunk: add 4 feet.
  • Reading e-mail: add 36 feet.
  • Sending a text: add 70 feet.

As the results indicate, texting hinders reaction times exponentially more than drinking and driving alone. However, don't take these results to mean that drinking while driving is by any means safe. Both intoxication and technological distractions are completely unacceptable while operating a motor vehicle. Whether drivers' vehicles are equipped with superior brakes or safety-rated Goodyear tires at Discount Tire, the test results don't lie. Collisions are nearly always due to human error, not the car itself. Texting and driving reaction times are likely even worse outside of the test's confines.

“The prognosis doesn’t improve when you look at the limitations of our test. We were using a straight road without any traffic, road signals, or pedestrians, and we were only looking at reaction times,” according to Car and Driver.

State Differences

Montana, South Dakota, Arizona, South Carolina and Florida currently do not restrict texting while driving, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Hawaii doesn't have a texting-while-driving prohibition per se, but has enacted ordinances that address driving while distracted. New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Mississippi have partial texting bans.

Solutions

The “solutions” to drunk driving is police enforcement, harsh laws, penalties and sometimes in-car breathalyzers. But what about texting while driving? Motorists can often spot a drunk driver due to erratic driving, but texters are nearly impossible to spot. However, there is one solution that enables texting to be done legally. California recently amended a portion of a bill that previously prohibited all text-based communication. In the Golden State, hands-free texting while driving is now legal. Idaho was the first, and only other state, to allow hands-free texting while driving. Programs like Siri for iPhone and Sonalight Text by Voice for Android offer voice texting which utilizes speech-to-text software.