Distracted Driving vs. Drunk Driving

Distracted Driving vs. Drunk Driving: Which Is Worse?

As responsible citizens, it is vital to understand the dangers of impaired driving and take proactive measures to ensure our safety on the roads. Drunk driving and distracted driving are two major contributors to car accidents in the United States. In this guide, we will see the differences between these two types of driving behaviors and shed light on the legal consequences associated with each. 

What is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving refers to any activity that diverts a driver’s attention away from the task of driving, increasing the risk of an accident. Distractions can take many forms, such as texting, talking on the phone, eating, grooming, or even adjusting the radio. According to a recent survey, 61% of Americans admit to being more distracted in their daily lives due to smartphone usage, with 51% reporting increased distractions while driving compared to five years ago. 

What is Drunk Driving?

Drunk driving refers to operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It impairs a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely, leading to a higher risk of accidents. While it is challenging to determine the exact frequency of drunk driving incidents, it is clear that the consequences can be devastating.

According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drunk driving resulted in 10,142 deaths in the United States in 2019. This number far surpasses the 3,142 deaths caused by distracted driving during the same period. 

Drunk Driving vs. Distracted Driving: What is the Difference?

Drunk driving and distracted driving are both dangerous behaviors that can lead to accidents, injuries, and fatalities on the road, but they differ in their root causes and manifestations. Here are the main differences between drunk driving and distracted driving:

  1. Impairment vs. Diverted Attention: Drunk driving involves impaired abilities due to alcohol or drug consumption, affecting motor skills, judgment, and reaction times. On the other hand, distracted driving occurs when a driver’s attention is diverted from driving tasks due to various distractions like phone use, eating, or adjusting the radio.
  2. Cause of Impairment: In drunk driving, impairment results from alcohol or drug use, directly affecting physical and mental abilities. Distracted driving cause of impairment arises from non-driving activities such as using electronic devices while operating a vehicle.
  3. Legislation and Legal Consequences: While drunk driving is illegal in all states with enforced blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits, leading to penalties like fines, license suspension, and more, distracted driving laws vary by state. In this case, many states prohibit texting or using handheld devices with penalties ranging from fines to license suspension.

Is Distracted Driving as Dangerous as Drunk Driving?

Drunk drivers are often more reckless and tend to drive at higher speeds, leading to more catastrophic outcomes in accidents. On the other hand, distracted driving accidents often involve fender-benders and minor collisions in stop-and-go traffic. Surveys have shown that a significant number of drivers admit to using their phones while at stop signs or red lights, stuck in traffic, or even in slow-moving traffic.

Legal Consequences: Distracted Driving Compared to Drunk Driving

To combat the dangers of both distracted driving and drunk driving, laws and regulations have been put in place across all 50 states in the United States. While every state has laws against drunk driving, the blood alcohol content (BAC) limits may vary. In North Carolina and South Carolina, for example, the legal limit is .08.

When it comes to distracted driving, laws primarily focus on phone usage. Texting while driving is banned in all states except Montana. Additionally, 24 states have enacted laws prohibiting drivers from using hand-held phones, while six states have partial bans on hand-held phone usage. The remaining states have no ban against holding a phone while driving.

How Are Distracting Driving Laws in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, distracted driving laws are in effect to ensure the safety of all motorists. Texting while driving is prohibited for all drivers, and it is considered a primary offense, meaning law enforcement can pull over drivers solely based on observing texting while driving. Additionally, South Carolina has a ban on using handheld communication devices for drivers under the age of 18.

How Are Drunk Driving Laws in South Carolina?

Drunk driving is treated seriously in South Carolina as well. A driver with a BAC of 0.08% or higher can face charges of driving while impaired (DWI). The consequences of a DWI conviction include fines, license suspension, mandatory alcohol education programs, and even jail time. Repeat offenders face more severe penalties.

Which States Are the Worst for Drunk Driving and Distracted Driving?

States with lower population densities often experience higher rates of both drunk driving and distracted driving violations. The open roads and fewer public transportation options give drivers a false sense of security, leading to higher instances of violations. 

In the context of drunk driving, the following states have reported the highest number of DUI violations:

  • North Dakota
  • Wyoming
  • South Dakota
  • Wisconsin
  • Alaska 

Similarly, the following states have reported the highest number of distracted driving incidents:

  • New Mexico
  • Alabama
  • Montana
  • Washington
  • Kentucky

It is crucial for states to continue implementing strict laws and regulations, as well as awareness campaigns, to combat both drunk driving and distracted driving. Education and enforcement play a critical role in changing driver behavior and reducing these dangerous practices.

Distracted and Drunk Driving Attorney in Spartanburg, South Carolina

In conclusion, both drunk driving and distracted driving present significant risks on the roads. While distracted driving may be more prevalent, drunk driving is more deadly, causing a higher number of fatalities each year. It is essential to understand the legal consequences associated with both types of dangerous driving behaviors, contact Cummings & Lewis today and let us build a strong case to get the best possible outcome. We have experience handling all types of car accident cases, including those involving distracted and drunk drivers. Call us now!

With 50+ years of combined legal experience, the attorneys at Cummings & Lewis, LLC represent people who need legal assistance. Our size, experience, and legal knowledge allow us to represent people who face all sorts of legal concerns in state and federal courts.

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