Everyone knows that driving while intoxicated is one of the most dangerous things a person could do, but what about driving while you have to go to the bathroom? Or driving while daydreaming? Numerous studies have been conducted that show how some of these other activities can be just as dangerous as drunk driving:
Drowsiness and Congestion
Sleeping while drowsy can be brought on by either not having enough sleep or taking medication such as sleeping pills or muscle relaxers before you drive. The TV show Mythbusters conducted a test that showed driving after being awake for 30 hours to be 10 times as dangerous as driving after having 2 drinks. Studies have also shown that teenagers are less likely to pull over and take a nap if they are feeling tired than adults. As far as medication is concerned, many drivers don’t realize that driving after taking a sleeping pill or other medication that causes drowsiness could lead to them being arrested for DUI – Driving Under the Influence. The FDA mandates that warnings be put on all bottles that contain sleeping pills to let drivers know the danger they face if they get in the car after taking the pills. Many times, drivers will take non-drowsy cough or cold medicine to get through the day – but a recent study found that motorists who drive with the flu or a bad head cold have their reaction time cut in half, which is about the same as those who drank 4 shots of double whiskey. Even more disturbing though is that almost half of all drivers have driven while sick.
Research has shown that texting while driving can be twice as dangerous as drunk driving. Other studies report that texting while driving can be four to six times as distracting as drunk driving. A texting ticket in New York carries 5 points, which is one of the highest point tickets you can receive in New York. However, it does not carry a criminal charge like DWI or DUI. And while it is still legal to speak on a hands-free phone while driving, studies tend to agree that talking on the phone, whether hands-free or not, is still an extremely dangerous practice. A University of Utah study found that drivers with a .08 BAL actually drove better than those who were on a phone. In fact, during the course of the study, three drivers who were using hands-free phones actually crashed into their pace cars. The issue may not be so much about what is in your hands, but rather what is on your mind.
Road Rage and Arguments
Driving while angry increases the chances of speeding, weaving and out of lanes, tailgating, and engaging in other aggressive driving behaviors. All of these things combined have killed anywhere from two to four times as many people as drunk driving. Road rage can cause drivers to act in ways they normally wouldn’t and can cause many problems on the road. While road rage is directed at drivers in other cars, arguments with people inside your car can be just as dangerous. Whether it’s on the phone or with your spouse sitting next to you, these arguments can lead to unsafe speeds and delayed reactions. A study in England found that drivers arguing with their spouse over the phone fared slightly better than those who were arguing in person, with the thought being that it is easier to ignore your spouse over the phone. Nonetheless, just like road rage, arguing with a spouse leads to distracted driving, which in turn can lead to auto fatalities.
The next time you are on a long road trip, you may want to take advantage of rest areas to relieve yourself. A recent study had volunteers drink many glasses of water and then take basic cognitive tests – without being allowed to use the restroom. The results showed that people who have to use the bathroom performed just as poorly as those with a .05 Blood Alcohol Level, or 2 ½ drinks. Researchers determined that this was a form of distracted driving, since your mind can only concentrate on one thing at a time. Another thing common to long road trips – or even heavy traffic on your commute – is daydreaming. An analysis of distracted driving fatalities that occurred over a 2-year period – roughly 6,500 – showed that 62% involved daydreaming. This percentage is even higher than texting or talking on a cell phone.
On a side note
This may seem like common sense, but you probably should not drive if you have been smoking marijuana. Legal marijuana use is growing in the United States, whether it’s through state-legalization efforts or medical use and proponents say that driving under the influence of marijuana is relatively safe. This is because drivers who smoke marijuana tend to drive slower and pass field sobriety tests. However, the fact still remains that marijuana causes a delay in reaction time for drivers, which is extremely dangerous since drivers are required to make split-second decisions while on the road. The American Journal of Epidemiology found that marijuana use was present in 10% of all auto fatalities over the past decade. Police officers can charge drivers who are under the effects of marijuana with DUI, which is a criminal charge.
All of the actions listed above are forms of distracted driving – a practice so bad that there is a month (April) known as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Even so, all throughout the year police officers often engage in week or month-long crackdowns to combat distracted driving. Reaction times are cut, sometimes in half, which can lead to rear end accidents, running stop signs or stop lights, or driving at unsafe speeds.
If you receive a speeding ticket, cell phone ticket, or are arrested for DWI or DUI, please contact us immediately so we can begin working on your case and help you achieve the best outcome possible.