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Rogers Law Blog

Monday, February 1, 2016

Intoxicated and "Intexticated" Driving: It's All A Distraction

WINNER ANNOUNCED:  Rogers Law Firm is proud to announce that the winner of its 2015 Scholarship Essay Contest is Danielle Maynard.  Danielle attends the University of Alaska at Anchorage.  She submitted a unique, creative, and well written essay about the dangers of distracted driving.  Please read and share Danielle's essay with your family and friends (it just might save a life):

"Intoxicated and Intexticated Driving:  It's All A Distraction."

By:  Danielle Maynard

Distracted driving has been a problem for nearly as long as the car has been around. However, today there seems to be more and more distractions out there. For example:  the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) states that, “distracted driving [is] any activity that could divert attention from the primary task of driving. Besides using electronic gadgets, distractions also can include adjusting a radio, eating and drinking, reading, grooming, and interacting with passengers.” (IIHS)  Many people do not associate things such as eating and adjusting the radio to be driving distractions though. To help prevent distractions when it comes to adjusting a radio, car manufacturers have implemented steering wheel tuning buttons so the driver never has to take their eyes off of the road or their hands off of the steering wheel. But the bottom line is, there is a time and a place for many of these things, and driving is not one of those places.

Texting and driving continues to be a large problem when it comes to distracted driving. Many teens today feel that they can text and drive and still maintain safe driving practices. But the truth is that texting while driving makes you twenty-three times more likely to get in an accident, than if you were not texting at all (Texting and Driving Safety). Many teens, and even adults too, feel so confident that they can safely text and drive, that they will even surf the web while driving, all the while justifying it by saying they’re only looking away from the road for a few seconds. According to the website Don’t Text and Drive, the average person takes their eyes off of the road for five seconds while reading a text. In the five seconds you take your eyes off of the road to read a text, your car travels the equivalent distance of a football field, assuming you are driving at only fifty-five miles per hour. Still, some drivers justify it by saying it’s okay to text while they are stopped at a red light, or placing the phone closer to the windshield so they can see both the road and the phone (Texting and Driving Safety).

Current laws related to cell phone use while driving vary from state to state. In Texas, the state law says that cell phone use is prohibited if you “have had a learner’s permit for 6 months or less, are under 18 years old, operate a school bus when children are present, or are in a school crossing zone.” (DMV)  However there are additional laws in certain cities that prohibit texting while driving, including Amarillo and San Antonio (Texas Department of Transportation).

When it comes to distracted driving in general, a driver cannot focus on two things at once. Statistics have proven that the driver’s attention will be drawn to one thing or the another, and if a driver is looking at their phone when the car in front of them stops short to avoid a rogue deer, their reaction time is decreased to the equivalent of the reaction time for a seventy year old driver who is not using a cell phone (Don’t Text and Drive).

For further proof that texting and driving should never be done, a Belgian non-profit and activist group called Responsible Young Drivers created a YouTube video involving student drivers. The students were presented with a fake law that informed them that in order to pass the driving test, they must successfully, and safely, text and drive while avoiding an obstacle in the road. Some students showed hesitation at first, saying “plenty of people will crash, I’m telling you”, but they all drove off and attempted to text while driving. None of the students could stay in their lanes and some even sent the car spinning when trying to avoid the obstacle. During the test, one student driver said, “Honestly, I feel like an idiot who can’t drive!” then later said, “If this becomes law, I’ll stop driving”. Still another student said, “what you’re asking is dangerous.” At the end of the test, the unanimous decision from all students was that they could not do both texting and driving at the same time, and that to do so would be dangerous and cost many lives (RYD).

Unfortunately, many drivers choose to ignore the statistics and laws created to protect them, causing an estimated 1.6 million car accidents each year, according to the United States Department of Transportation. That boils down to an estimated half a million injuries and six thousand lives lost, all due to distracted drivers using their cell phones.

On another note, drinking and driving is also a form of distracted driving. Again, state laws vary, but in the state of Texas, for a first offense, if a driver is intoxicated they can face, “a fine of up to $2,000.00, 3 days to 180 days imprisonment, loss of [their] driver’s license for up to 1 year, and a fee of up to $2000.00 per year for 3 years to keep [their] driver’s license.” (DMV)

If that’s not enough to think about, consider texting while driving vs. intoxicated driving. It is universally understood that driving while intoxicated is a bad choice, and therefore illegal, because even buzzed driving is impaired driving. It is easy to understand that when a person is intoxicated, they are not able to think clearly and are unable to control their reflexes to the equivalent of if they were sober. However, many people still consider texting and driving to be safer than drinking and driving. To prove that is not the case, a study from The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute shows that texting and driving is six times more likely to cause a car crash than driving while intoxicated (Don’t Text and Drive). So it is reasonable to conclude that, even though a driver who is texting while driving may be sober, their mind and body are so distracted by their phone,that they drive in a manner that is worse than if they were intoxicated. Since impaired driving by texting and impaired driving by drinking have very similar consequences, the term “intexticated” has been coined to show how similar texting and driving is to intoxicated driving. It should be noted that regardless, neither intexticated driving nor intoxicated driving should ever be preferred over the other, as their results are both dangerous and deadly.

Still, there always seem to be people who feel it is okay to text while driving.  So, to combat this growing problem, some car manufacturers have attempted to create technology that stays within the laws, but still allow the driver to access 
their phones. A few changes they have made to the cars were well received; such as the hands free dialing and disabling use of the actual phone while the vehicle is on. In a more controversial move, other manufacturers have gone so far as to create cars that will read your texts to you, and write a text for you by listening to your voice. While this technology can be seen as better than texting with your hands, it can also be argued that by using this feature, you are still distracted because you are focusing your attention on the text your car is formulating, rather than on the school children crossing the road in front of you.

Some possible solutions to distracted driving are starting the education about this issue at a young age and introducing educational programs. It starts with parents teaching their children to make safe choices while driving. They can do this, in part, by leading by example. We also should have a strict, no tolerancelaw that states, across the board, it is illegal to text and drive. While, talking and driving are still a distraction, texting seems to be the major problem. The laws on drinking and driving are already fairly strict, but educating young children may be able to prevent their generation from making the problem worse. Another option could be to implement a real life simulation in schools, such as the Every 15 Minutes program. It is a program that involves students and members of the community to educate, “that every 15 minutes someone in the United States diesfrom an alcohol related traffic collision.” The program has proven to dramatically reduce the likelihood of participants drinking and driving by simulating a car accident, and what usually follows.

 

Sources

1. DontTextAndDrive.com This source was used for statistics research.

2. EveryFifteenMinutes.org site is a program that can be implemented in schools using students and volunteers from the community to simulate a real life drunk driving car crash and the results, impacting not only the victims, but the community and families of the victims, and the drunk driver themselves.

3. DMV.org source used to determine Texas state driving laws.

4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbjSWDwJILs video entitled “The Impossible Texting & Driving Test” posted by Responsible Young Drivers. This source was used for direct quotes from teenage drivers who attempted to text while driving to pass a fictitious driving test.

5. IIHS.org site used for statistics regarding highway safety.

6. TextingAndDrivingSafety.com page entitled “Texting and Distracted Driving Infographic: DWI: Driving While Intexticated”. This source provided the inspirationfor the use of the word “intexticated” and also for several statistics used throughout the essay.

7. TXDoT.gov Texas Department of Transportation “Cell Phone Ordinances”. Source used to determine which cities in Texas prohibited texting and driving.

8. WashingtonPost.com article titled “Automakers Embrace Hands-Free Text-Messaging Technology”. Source used for research on auto manufacturers technology for alternatives to traditional hand-held texting.

 

If you have suffered serious personal injury as a result of an automobile accident, or lost a loved one due to wrongful death, do not hesitate to contact Corpus Christi, Tx injury attorney Sheadyn R Rogers at (361) 356-6057 for a free consultation concerning your case.


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