Distracted Driving vs. Driving Under the Influence: By the Numbers

Human error overwhelmingly causes the majority of motor vehicle crashes— to the tune of at least 90 percent. Whether it is speeding, failing to maintain control, not looking ahead or unsafe turns, driving mistakes often have a common theme; the lack of judgment and of concentration.

Here, we examine and compare the statistics surrounding two major factors in motor vehicle accidents; driving under the influence and distracted driving.

An Overview of Impaired Driving and Distracted Driving

An impaired driver is one whose judgment and ability to drive a vehicle are diminished by alcohol or a controlled substance. Unsafe movements, swerving or weaving, or lack of balance can supply evidence of impaired driving. A driver who registers a blood alcohol content of at least 0.08 commits the criminal offense of driving under the influence. In other words, a driver is considered impaired simply by registering a BAC of 0.08.

We commonly associate distracted driving with activities such as viewing or sending texts, social media posts or other content on cell or smartphones while driving. Food, unruly children, radios and navigation systems also draw drivers’ attention from the road. Tennessee law prohibits motorists from handling a cellphone while driving, watching or taking photographs or video images using a cellphone and sending or viewing texts while driving. Motorists can also become distracted by trying to enter addresses or searching for locations on GPS devices while driving.

DUI v. Distracted Driving Statistics

By the numbers, DUIs are more deadly than distracted driving. In 2018, impaired driving claimed 10,511 lives. According to the Insurance Information Institute, 5,507 drivers who were involved in fatal crashes in 2017 operated vehicles under the influence of alcohol. That translates to nearly one in every nine such drivers.

In 2017, 3,166 people perished at the hands of distracted driving. Nearly 5.7 percent of drivers, or 2,994, who involved in fatal motor vehicle incidents engaged in distracted driving. Distractions accounted for 2,935 crashes resulting in death, or nearly one in every nine crashes. Cell phone usage reared itself in roughly one out of every seven fatal crashes involving distracted driving -- or 434.

Impaired driving and distracted driving ranked second and fifth respectively among driver behaviors that resulted in fatalities.

To be sure, impaired driving is serious and happens too often. However, distracted driving may be more common. The chances of a wreck grow by 23 times when a driver texts. Distracted driving results in nearly 2.5 million car crashes. Nearly 660,000 motorists operate electronic devices while driving. According to one study of 3 million drivers, mobile phone use occurred during 88 percent of trips.

Distracted driving presents different risks than DUIs. As to the latter, drivers lose the ability to judge speed, distances and required stopping times. The constant inability to maintain lane control represents a strong sign of a DUI, especially when coupled with odors of alcohol, slurred speech and other indicators that a driver has consumed alcohol.

With distracted driving, the issue is primarily one of lack of attention to the road. Even minutely momentary looks at or handling of devices or food can cause wrecks. As little as three seconds stand between a distracting event or activity and a motor vehicle crash. On average, a driver spends five seconds sending or reading a text while driving. Upon ceasing the cell phone use, a driver may need as much as 13 seconds to resume focus on driving.

What If I Am Involved in a DUI or Distracted Driving Crash?

Ultimately, a personal injury case is a negligence case. An injured person seeking compensation must prove that the other driver failed to exercise care. The fact of a rear-end collision may itself supply evidence or a presumption that the driver failed to keep a proper lookout. Other acts of negligence include running stop signs or lights, failing to reduce speed, not giving proper signals and unsafe lane changes.

In proving negligence, it may help to show that the tortfeasor drove under the influence or was distracted. To that end, a personal injury attorney can request text messages, social media posts or call records from the driver at the time of the wreck. Reports from the investigating officer and witness statements may reveal findings or admissions of drinking, using controlled substances or smartphone usage.

At Meade Law Group, we have a personal injury attorney with experience in obtaining compensation for the victims of careless drivers and other negligent actors. Our clients have secured settlements and jury verdicts for significant injuries or deaths from motor vehicle accidents and other incidents caused by negligence.

Contact our team today (423) 464-7779 so we can help you pursue claims for lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, disabilities and other harms occasioned by distracted or impaired drivers.