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Texting-While-Driving and Other "Distracted Driving"

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Government officials have adopted a “zero-tolerance” approach to DWI enforcement in New Hampshire. However, recent studies suggest that, as dangerous as driving while intoxicated is, texting-while-driving may be far worse.

Car and Driver magazine conducted an experiment in which drivers tested their reaction times while texting while reading, and while impaired by alcohol. The drivers were told to hit the brakes and come to a controlled stop when they saw a windshield-mounted LED light up. First, a baseline reaction time was established. Then each driver made several stops while reading and while texting. After completing that, each driver drank enough alcohol to get their BAC up to the legal limit of .08, and then took the test again. In case you are wondering, Car and Driver rented an airport runway to conduct these tests, they did not use an open road!

The experiment found that the all three distracted driving scenarios increased the driver’s reaction time and thus reduced safety. Surprisingly, of the three distractions, reading and texting-while-driving tended to increase the reaction time more than impaired driving did. Make no mistake about it: alcohol definitely increases reaction time, creates a risk of injury or death, and carries significant legal penalties. Texting-while-driving and reading, however, can create far greater distractions that increase reaction time – and decrease driving safety – even more than DWI.

On January 1, 2010, a new law banning texting-while-driving went into effect. Despite the fact that the risks involved in texting-while-driving may be far greater than those involved with DWI, the penalties imposed are far lower. A driver convicted of first offense DWI can expect a minimum of $600 in fines and penalties and a minimum three-month loss of license. The fine for under the new law for texting-while-driving is only $100.

The Car and Driver article can be viewed here: