Driving under the Influence AND Using Your Cell Phone—A Deadly Combination


Driving under the influence is dangerous enough; it affects a driver’s motor skills, reaction times and judgment. But how many drivers out there are under the influence of alcohol or drugs and using their cell phone while they drive? My guess is a lot. Recently an 18-year old Stockton driver who was under the influence of alcohol thought it was a clever idea to record video to Instagram while driving with two 14-year-olds in the backseat. One of those passengers was her sister. As the drunken, video-streaming teen drove down a road near Los Banos, California, her car veered and she overcorrected causing the car to overturn. Her 14-year-old sister was killed; the other passenger suffered serious injuries.

The 18-year-old should never have been drinking in the first place, much less driving with two 14-year- olds in the car. As I have discussed on previous occasions, teen brains have not matured and many teens have poor decision-making skills. That doesn’t give this driver a pass–she has been charged with vehicular manslaughter and other crimes. Worse yet, she will live with the memory of killing her little sister for the rest of her life.

But I wonder about all the adults of legal drinking age who are out on our roads driving under the influence and texting, posting to social media, or even just navigating on their cell phone. Researchers have asked: What’s more dangerous, driving with a .08% BAC or texting? One study conducted by the University of Utah found that cell-phone use resulted in greater driver impairment than driving under the influence of alcohol. Car and Driver Magazine conducted simulated driving test on driver reaction times. Their results: the texting drivers’ reaction time was as much as two times slower than the drunk drivers’ reaction time.

While distracted driving appears to be as dangerous or more dangerous than driving under the influence (with the caveat that the drunker or higher the driver, the more dangerous his or her driving will become), according to the Centers for Disease Control, drunken driving causes more deaths on the road. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that there is over three times as many deaths caused by drivers under the influence, 28 per day versus 8 deaths per day caused by distracted driving. Of course, it is much easier to determine whether the vehicle crash involved a driver under the influence than whether there was distracted driving involved so the distracted driving deaths may not reflect the true numbers.

It’s a frightening thought and one that hasn’t been discussed much. Most studies to date have looked at the dangers of distracted driving versus drunken driving. But given how many people who are sober use their cell phones while driving, which should be against their better sober judgment, how many more are using their cell phones when their judgment is compromised by alcohol?

If distracted driving is dangerous in and of itself and driving under the influence is all that more dangerous, we have a deadly combination on our roads.

Orange County DUI attorney William Weinberg has been defending those charged with driving under the influence, from first-time DUIs to vehicular manslaughter and DUI murder. Call him for a free consultation at his Irvine office (949) 474-8008 or contact him by email at bill@williamweinberg.com.