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Driving & Drinking or Driving & Talking/Texting -- Which Is Worse?

Teen Drivers: DUI vs DWT
Driving & Drinking or Driving & Talking/Texting -- Which Is Worse?

Teen drivers under the influence of alcohol or talking/texting on a cellphone make the roads less safe.
Okay, which poses a greater danger -- a newly-minted teen driver operating a two-ton vehicle after swilling down a few beers or the same teen driver talking (or texting) on a cell phone at 40-50 miles per hour through traffic?
It's a question of DUI (Driving Under the Influence) versus DWT (Driving While Talking/Texting).
Both scenarios send shivers up the spine. But forced to pick one, most would likely go with the slightly inebriated teen as the greater danger to him/herself and other drivers.
After all, alcohol and driving are a toxic combination for any age driver. Slower reaction time, poor hazard perception, reduced inhibitions and inflated confidence – alcohol, even in small amounts, adversely affects driver performance.

Intoxicated Teen Fatalities
Factor in a youth’s inexperience and immaturity behind the wheel, and it's no wonder that 23 percent of teen driver fatalities involve alcohol blood content level at or above 0.08 percent, the level at which states define drinking, according to a 2005 U.S. Department of Transportation statistic cited on the Insurance Information Institute’s (III) website (October 2007).

Motor vehicle crashes in the U.S., by the way, were the leading cause of death among 15- to 20-year-olds [III website as well]. So with nearly one-quarter of those fatalities involving intoxicated teen drivers, it’s hard to imagine that cell phone distractions could be worse than driving under the influence.

Pervasiveness of Cell Phones
But consider this argument: The pervasiveness of cell phones today -- what teen doesn't have one? -- means many more teen drivers are likely to talk/text on cell phones than climb in a car legally drunk.
Teens readily admit to high cellphone use while driving. The 2005 Allstate Foundation survey [on the III website], for instance, reports that more than half -- 56 percent -- of teen drivers admit to using cell phones while driving.
Teens drivers not only talk on their cell phone -- but incredibly, they also send and receive text messages as they drive down the road.
So as to which of these two highly risky behaviors is more dangerous -- DUI or DWT -- here's a reasonable conclusion:
Driving under the influence of alcohol is more likely to result in a serious accident. But cell phone use while driving is a more frequent activity; it's become a major distraction for teens on the road and, therefore, more close calls and accidents are likely to happen.
But it's also highly probable that cell phone-related fatalities -- as was reported in New York, New Jersey, Washington and other states this past year -- will increase if cellphone use in vehicles isn't curbed, either voluntarily or by law.

States Prohibit Driving and Cell Phone Use
More and more legislators are recognizing the danger. With drinking and driving statutes in place, lawmakers nationwide are turning to the serious issue of what to do about cell phone use and driving.
Already, 15 states including Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Main, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia and Washington, D.C. have adopted bans that prohibit teen drivers from using cell phones while driving, reports the III website.
In California, teenagers will be banned from using all electronic devices while driving -- cell phones, pagers, laptops -- effective July 1, 2008.

Ban on DWT--Driving While Texting
The state of Washington has also recognized the increasing danger and incidence of teen driver doing the almost unthinkable: text messaging while driving. So the state has singled out that activity and enacted a law that prohibits text messaging while driving, appropriately referred to as DWT: Driving While Texting.

Global , Traffic Safety

Date: 6/4/2010 3:13:50 PM

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