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DUI Vs. Using Your Phone: Which is More Dangerous for Driving?

Posted on September 16th, 2019 by Oddo & Babat, P.C.

Dangerous Driving Behaviors

With cell phones taking center stage in today’s daily life, using them in the car has become very common. However, is talking on the phone or texting on it any less dangerous than drunk driving? A recent study carried out by Harvard University aimed to find the answers to these questions, and the results are pretty clear: phone use is just about as dangerous as driving while intoxicated (

The university tested 40 college students and found that those who used a cell phone while behind the wheel were 9 percent slower to tap their brakes, drove slower in general, and were 19 percent slower to return to normal speed after they hit the brakes. Researchers also found that phone-using drivers were more likely to crash and displayed 24 percent more variation in their following distance as they switched attention between their phone and the road.

For the drunk driving portion, participants had a blood alcohol level of over 0.08 percent, and they didn’t do much better. Intoxicated drivers drove even more slowly than those using the cell phones, but they were more aggressive overall. They also followed the test’s pace car at a closer distance and were twice as likely to hit the brakes just four seconds before a crash would have happened. In the end, however, the researchers found that the drunk drivers’ accident rates, their reaction times to vehicles braking in front of them and their recovery of the speed lost after braking did not differ significantly from drivers who were not using their phones or distracted in any way.

The results from the Harvard study line up with many other studies performed over the years on the same topic. For example, in 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 3,450 people were killed in distracted-related incidents. This figure includes accidents related to more distractions than just cell phones, but at 14 percent of the overall total, cell phone use by drivers was a major cause.

One of the biggest car distractions today is texting, particularly among younger drivers. The average time it takes to read and reply to a text is around 4.6 seconds, and for a person driving 55 mph, that means covering the entire length of a football field while they’re not looking at the road. Despite this, Integrity Insurance reports that a recent survey found that around half of Americans in the US today admitted they text while driving, despite 90 percent of that same responding group saying they knew it was dangerous to do so (

If you are involved in a car accident that caused serious injury or death and you are being accused of being on your phone at the time, you can be facing some serious charges and penalties that will affect your life now and for years down the road. Contact a criminal lawyer in Denver, CO for guidance and help throughout your case. When you are facing serious consequences, you simply can’t afford to leave anything to chance.


Thanks to Richard J. Banta, for their insight into criminal law and dangerous driving habits.


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