Imagine driving your car at 55 miles per hour with your eyes closed.
If you're sane, you wouldn't consider it.
But there's a good chance you or someone you know has actually done something similar in the last 30 days. Each time a person sends a text message, they spend around 5 seconds looking at their phone. At 55 miles per hour, this means driving the length of a football field without looking at the road ahead.
People Know that Distracted Driving is Dangerous, but They Do it Anyway
A recent AAA study found that 97% of drivers say texting or emailing while driving is a serious safety risk.
It's also illegal. California Vehicle Code section 23123.5 bans driving a vehicle while holding and operating a cell phone.
Even though almost everyone understands that using their cell phone while driving is dangerous, lots of people do it anyway. 45% of people surveyed said that they had read a text or email while driving within the last month, and 35% admitted to sending one.
If People Know that Texting and Driving is so Dangerous, Why Do They Do It?
Surveys point to several reasons why people use their phone while driving. A major one is feeling pressure from work to always be available/responsive. But let's be real, it's not only work emails that people are checking while driving. Many people are reading text messages, checking Facebook, or scrolling through Instagram.
My theory is that people know it's a bad idea to use their phone while driving, but they don't think it's a terrible idea. They've done it before without anything bad happening, and they justify doing it again by telling themselves "I'll do it just this one time, I'll be careful, and nothing bad will happen."
But Using a Cell Phone While Driving is a Lot More Dangerous than Many People Realize
Today, everyone knows that drunk driving is incredibly dangerous, and the vast majority of people would never consider doing it.
It's important to internalize that using a cell phone while driving is not just a bad idea, it's incredibly dangerous just like drunk driving.
The tolls taken by both drunk driving and distracted driving are huge. More people die every year from drunk driving accidents than distracted driving -- about 10,000 people lose their lives per year due to drunk driving, while it is closer to 3,000 people who die in crashes caused by distracted driving. However, more people are injured every year due to distracted driving than drunk driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
And research has found that texting can slow a driver's reaction time even more than alcohol does. Texting causes a 35% slow down in reaction time, compared to a 12% decrease with alcohol, according to the U.K.-based Transport Research Laboratory.
Let's be clear: drunk driving is horrible. I have represented people who suffered catastrophic injuries due to drunk driving accidents. There is absolutely no excuse to drive under the influence when an Uber or a Lyft is a few clicks away. With that said, you cannot drive safely if you are looking at your phone instead of the road ahead. A person who is looking down at their phone will not see the red light or kid in the street.
Both using your cell phone while driving and drunk driving are incredibly dangerous. And while most people have internalized this when it comes to drunk driving, many people give themselves passes when it comes to texting and driving.
Understanding just how dangerous it is to drive down the street with your eyes essentially closed will hopefully cause people to treat it like drunk driving -- both are things you should never do, not even just this one time.
Costa Mesa car accident lawyer Blaise Patzkowski is an advocate for the rights of people injured in car accidents, bike accidents, and pedestrian accidents in Orange County, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, and across California. He has advocated for the imposition of punitive damages against drivers who cause car crashes due to texting and driving. If you or your family member was hurt in a car, bicycle, or pedestrian accident, please contact Mr. Patzkowski.
Disclaimer: The information here is general information that should not be taken as legal advice. It cannot be guaranteed to be accurate, current or complete. No attorney-client relationship is established between you and our law firm by reading this article. This article should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a lawyer about the specific facts of your case.