texting while driving accidents

Is Texting While Driving As Dangerous As Drunk Driving?

Most people agree that drunk driving is wrong. But when it comes to texting while driving, motorists tend to take a more relaxed view, even though studies show that texting may be even more dangerous than driving while impaired. Read on to learn why.

Drunk Driving vs. Texting While Driving

Research suggests that, in some ways, texting is the new drunk driving. Even popular culture recognizes the phenomenon, dubbing texting while driving accidents as “intextigated” crashes. It’s a clever term but hardly a laughing matter.

Texting While Driving Statistics

Texting while driving is a severe safety concern in both North and South Carolina. In its most recent Traffic Collision Fact Book, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) reports that texting while driving was a contributing factor in 1,263 car accidents in a single year. These car accident statistics include 449 distracted driving accidents with injuries and 11 crashes with traffic fatalities.

South Carolina motorists also face the dangers of distracted driving. The South Carolina Department of Public Safety (SCPDS) reports that texting while driving was a primary contributing factor in 75 collisions in one recent year. That number includes 20 car crashes with injuries.

With today’s increased cellphone use, texting and driving is responsible for causing more accidents than in years past.

Effects of Texting While Driving

Texting while driving is extremely dangerous. The Federal Highway Administration reports that drivers who use cell phones are four times more likely to injure themselves in a severe crash. When you look at the effects of distracted driving, it’s easy to see why. Texting while driving involves each of the CDC’s three types of driver distractions:

  • Manual Distractions – Manual distractions happen when drivers remove their hands from the steering wheel. Texting while driving is a classic example of a manual distraction, as it requires the driver’s hands to engage with a cell phone. This action compromises the ability to steer, respond to road changes, or maintain control of the vehicle, heightening the risk of accidents.
  • Visual Distractions – Visual distractions draw a driver’s eyes away from the road. When texting, a driver’s attention shifts from the road environment to the phone screen, even if momentarily. This break in focus can lead to missed road signs, overlooked traffic shifts, or unseen pedestrians, significantly increasing the chance of a car crash.
  • Cognitive Distractions – Cognitive distractions occur when something diverts a driver’s mental focus from the task of driving. Texting while driving is a significant cognitive distraction, as it involves the driver in a conversation, diverting thoughts from the driving task. This split attention can slow reaction times and impair judgment, making it challenging to form safe driving decisions or react quickly to unforeseen hazards.

Drunk Driving Statistics

Despite decades of public safety campaigns to warn drivers about impaired driving, drunk driving crashes continue to take a massive toll in North and South Carolina. The NCDOT reports there were 8,856 drunk driving accidents statewide in a single recent year, including 3,887 crashes with injuries and 292 with fatalities.

It’s a similarly grim story in South Carolina. According to the SCDPS, drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs contributed to 5,377 crashes in one recent year. That figure includes 2,422 collisions with injuries and 233 with fatalities. According to these statistics, more people were killed or injured in drunk driving crashes than in distracted driving ones.

Effects of Drinking on Driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 31 percent of all traffic deaths nationwide involve drivers with blood-alcohol concentrations (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher – the legal limit in most states. Drunk driving negatively affects the following:

  • Driver Reaction Time – Alcohol consumption slows down the brain’s processing speed, leading to delayed reactions to traffic signals, unexpected road hazards, or the actions of other drivers.
  • Coordination – Alcohol affects fine motor skills and balance, making it challenging to perform basic driving tasks such as steering, using the pedals, and shifting gears.
  • Judgment and Decision-Making – Intoxication impairs the ability to make quick, rational decisions. Drunk drivers might take unnecessary risks, misjudge distances, or fail to anticipate potential dangers.
  • Concentration – Alcohol reduces the driver’s ability to concentrate on the driving task, increasing the risk of distraction and the inability to focus on the complex task of safely navigating traffic.
  • Vision – Alcohol can blur vision, alter depth perception, and reduce peripheral vision, making it difficult to see other vehicles, pedestrians, and road signs clearly.

Which Is More Dangerous: Drinking or Texting While Driving?

So, is texting while driving more dangerous than drunk driving? Not according to the statistics. While impaired driving leads to significantly more crashes, injuries, and deaths in both North and South Carolina, do not underestimate the dangers of texting while driving. When drivers make the unsafe decision to text behind the wheel, they put themselves and everyone else on the road at risk. Therefore, it’s crucial for drivers of all ages to understand these dangers and for parents of younger drivers to educate their children on how to drive safely.

Should Texting While Driving Be Treated Like Drunk Driving?

Given that both impaired drivers and drivers who text willingly choose to endanger themselves and others, many people argue that the penalties for texting while driving should match those for drunk driving. While this argument resonates with many people, for now, the law doesn’t see it that way.

North Carolina law makes it illegal for a driver to send or read a text while driving. North Carolina treats texting while driving as a primary offense, meaning the police can pull a driver over for texting without needing additional cause. Texting while driving penalties in North Carolina include a $100 fine, though points will not be added to the offender’s driver’s license.

South Carolina has a similar law concerning texting while driving. The law makes it illegal for a person to send, read, or compose a text message while driving. The penalty for violating this law is a $25 fine. Like in North Carolina, distracted drivers won’t see points added to their licenses.

These penalties contrast sharply with harsh drunk driving penalties in both states. The baseline penalties for drunk driving in North Carolina include a $200 fine, 30 days suspension from operating a motor vehicle, and a minimum of 24 hours in jail, though the maximum jail sentence is 60 days. The penalties increase sharply for repeat offenses or for drunk drivers who injure or kill someone in a crash.
South Carolina takes a similarly harsh stance against driving drunk. According to the SCDPS, the penalties for a first-time DUI offense include a $400 fine, a minimum of 48 hours in jail (up to 30 days maximum), and a six-month driver’s license suspension. As in North Carolina, the penalties for drunk driving in South Carolina increase substantially for repeat offenses or when a driver injures or kills someone in a crash.

It’s also worth noting that texting while driving can significantly impact a personal injury lawsuit. Since both states have laws against texting while driving, violating these laws may constitute negligence per se, making it easier for an accident victim to hold a texting driver financially liable.

Similarly, both North Carolina and South Carolina allow plaintiffs to pursue punitive damages in cases involving willful or extreme negligence by the defendant. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant rather than compensate the victim for a particular loss. Texting while driving is both a known danger and an active choice, so a defendant’s decision to do so could persuade a jury that the plaintiff deserves punitive damages, significantly increasing their financial recovery. A South Carolina car accident lawyer can tell you whether you qualify for punitive damages.

Texting Can Wait

Life is busy, but it’s also precious. Texting takes your eyes off the road for around five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that’s long enough to cover the distance of a football field. It’s more than enough time to miss seeing a driver hit the brakes in front of you or to drift out of your lane in traffic. The solution is simple — just don’t text while driving.

If you really can’t wait to read a message, pull over and stop first. If you’re afraid you’ll give in to temptation, put the phone out of reach or ask a passenger to read the message and reply for you.

When driving, safety for you (and your fellow motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists) should always be the top priority. Too many people believe they can multitask while driving when, in reality, it’s something the human brain is incapable of. It’s just not worth the risk.

Injured in a Texting While Driving Crash? Contact Our Car Accident Lawyers

People who are hit and injured by a texting driver may be entitled to seek compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. At Stewart Law Offices, our South Carolina and North Carolina lawyers can demand maximum compensation from the driver who struck you and fight to restore your financial security and personal well-being.

Our legal team is ready to speak to you in a free consultation. To get started, call or contact us today.