Every time someone gets behind the wheel of a vehicle, we expect them to be a safe and cautious driver, but according to statistics from the New Mexico Department of Transportation’s Traffic Crash Annual Report, many aren’t.
On average in New Mexico in 2018, a distracted driving crash occurred every 55 minutes, an alcohol-involved crash occurred every four hours, and a person was killed or injured in an alcohol-involved crash every six hours.
It’s evident that both drunk and distracted driving are acts of negligence with serious, even deadly, ramifications—but which is more dangerous?
The Question: Which is more dangerous, drunk, or distracted driving?
Both drunk and distracted driving have long been major causes of accidents on Albuquerque roads. It’s obvious that both appear to be dangerous, but to determine which is most dangerous, we must first understand what exactly makes them dangerous.
In New Mexico, it is illegal for someone who is over the age of 21 to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more, which averages to about four or five drinks. The alcohol in those four to five drinks negatively affects critical driving and cognition skills, reducing the efficiency of our brain, hands, eyes, and feet—all of which we use to drive, in the following ways:
- Reaction Time: alcohol slows reflexes
- Vision: alcohol slows eye muscle function and alters visual perception
- Tracking: alcohol decreases distance perception and judgment ability
- Concentration: alcohol decreases driving attention and causes drowsiness
- Comprehension: alcohol hinders the ability to make rational decisions
- Coordination: alcohol impairs coordination
Distracted driving is defined as “any activity that diverts a driver’s attention from driving safely”. This can range from texting, eating, and daydreaming to singing or tending to a child in the back seat. Ultimately it comes down to three types of distractions:
- Visual: anything that takes your eyes off the road
- Manual: anything that takes your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive: anything that takes your focus off of driving
The Answer: Both!
So, which is more dangerous? The answer is both! The Traffic Crash Annual report reveals that driver inattention and alcohol/drug use were both among the most prevalent top contributing factors in crash-related fatalities, with driver inattention accounting for 8.7% and alcohol/drug accounting for 54.8%—meaning both are dangerous and both are deadly.
A crash caused by a drunk or distracted driver is no accident. Save a life and ONLY get behind the wheel if you’re intending to be a safe, cautious, and focused driver.