Are Cell Phones More Distracting to Drivers than Pot?

On Behalf of | Dec 26, 2017 | motor vehicle accidents

Many things cause us to drive carelessly. No question about it, many distractions in the car exist like eating fast food, passengers (human or otherwise), putting on makeup, cell phones, music and a host of other creative activities. A driver’s mental state can also negatively impact driving behavior.  A few examples include feeling overly tired, angry, emotional or just lacking a plan as to where you’re going can cause us to drive carelessly.  Unfortunately, any one of these careless or distracted behaviors may cause someone to swerve, over-correct or drive too slowly or too fast.  While these careless acts rarely result in fatalities, driving while intoxicated often kills.  Drunk driving is the most dangerous careless activity you can engage in as one person is killed every 50 minutes in a drunk driving accident. (NHTSA, 2017)

But what about marijuana? Apparently, we can all agree that drunk driving is the most careless and reckless activity in which a driver can engage in while operating a vehicle.  But isn’t being under the influence of marijuana the second most dangerous activity?  According to recent studies, the answer is no. A new survey released last month conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America found that while the vast majority of Americans believe driving under the influence of marijuana is dangerous, an overwhelming percentage consider texting while behind the wheel even more of a problem. (Lardiari, 2017)

A study conducted by AT&T backs this up.  94% of people surveyed agree texting and driving is a careless and dangerous activity.  Texting makes a crash 23 times more likely to occur. In fact, drivers who text spend an average of 10% of their time outside of their lane.  Texting while driving causes 11 deaths per day. (Do Something!.org, 2017)

So, does this mean that driving high is safe?  No.  91% of Americans believe driving while under the influence of marijuana is dangerous and 87% believe people who do so pose a danger to others on the road. However, just 40% of respondents believe driving while high is a contributing factor to more motor vehicle accidents, according to the survey.

The bottom line is that while marijuana does compromise a person’s motor functions, more Americans think using social media (99%) and texting (98%) while driving is far more dangerous than driving under the influence of marijuana (91%). (Lardiari, 2017)

It is illegal to text while driving in Colorado, except in the case of emergencies like reporting an accident or a fire (C.R.S §42-4-239).  There is a fine associated with texting and driving, but most drivers are apparently willing to chance a couple of hundred dollar tickets for the ability to text and drive.  However, please keep in mind that careless or distracted driving could end up with far more serious consequences for both the driver and the victim.

Do you know what can happen while spending 5 seconds (considered to be the minimum amount of time one spends glancing at a phone while driving) texting or looking at social media while travelling at 55 miles per hour? Well, imagine driving with your eyes closed the length of a football field!

On December 5, 2017, a Douglas County woman was charged with Careless Driving Resulting in death in a car versus bicycle collision that took place on Hess Road.  The Douglas County Sherriff’s Department has not released the details into what caused the accident on November 27, 2017, other than the driver drifted into the cyclist’s lane, killing him. (Post, 2017).

Cyclists and pedestrians are some of the most vulnerable people with which we share the road.  Colorado requires that cars maintain at least a three-foot distance between their car and a bicyclist (C.R.S. §42-4-1003).  This space requirement includes all mirrors and projections from the passing vehicle.  The three-feet rule requirement was put in place, in part, to account for the minor slip in attention. There are additional laws protecting bicyclists and pedestrians from careless, negligent and inattentive motorists.  Violation of these laws can expose the bad driver to an array of misdemeanor and felony charges as well as thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees.