Texting While Driving VS Drunk Driving
For decades, drunk driving has been at the forefront of debate, and law enforcement officials in every state, including California, have been cracking down on the dangerous behavior considerably with stricter laws, DUI checkpoints, blood alcohol testing, and other preventative measures. However, a new road threat is on the rise: texting while driving. And many believe it to be even more dangerous than drunk driving.
Comparing the Statistics
Ever since the .08 blood alcohol content limit law swept the nation, drunk driving fatalities have declined significantly. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 12,405 drunk driving fatalities in 2002. Nine years later, that number dropped to 9,296 – a 25 percent decrease.
The distracted driving accident rate is trending the other direction. In 2002, there were 2,600 distracted driving fatalities. In 2011, the number of distracted driving accidents increased by 22 percent, reaching a total of 3,331 fatalities. Furthermore, the NHTSA reports that texting while driving contributes to approximately 1.6 million accidents every year – that’s about a quarter of all auto accidents, not a figure to be taken lightly.
The Disparity in Penalties
Both distracted and drunk driving can cause drivers to engage in dangerous, potentially fatal driving behaviors such as tailgating, speeding, delayed braking, and weaving between lanes and into oncoming traffic. Really, the only difference between the two is that one is still very much accepted as part of everyday life, while the other is viewed as repugnant and criminal behavior.
It is true that many states have recently enacted laws that prohibit drivers from using hand held cell phones and text messaging while behind the wheel, but they are hard to enforce. And those who do get caught distracted driving are only met with a small fine – practically a slap on the wrist.
Drunk drivers, on the other hand, face severe penalties, including heavy fines, probation, loss of driving privileges, and possible jail time.
Why is texting while driving treated as more acceptable than drunk driving? Aren’t they both grossly negligent behaviors with potentially devastating consequences? Shouldn’t we criminalize the former as we have with the latter? Or is texting while driving so pervasive and ingrained in our technological society that it is improbable, if not impossible, to stop it?
The Jury Is Still Out On This One
It will be interesting to see how the laws regarding texting while driving develop in the coming years. Perhaps as more and more people become aware of the dangers of texting while driving, the penalties will become more severe. New technologies, such as self-driving cars, could even render distracted driving laws obsolete. Until then, motorists everywhere are highly advised to avoid both distracted and drunk driving if they want to prevent accidents.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a distracted driving accident or a drunk driving accident, please don’t hesitate to contact Wilshire Law Firm for immediate legal assistance. You may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages during recovery, pain and suffering, and more. Find out more about your options in a free consultation with one of our dedicated staff.