DUI, Distracted Driving…and the Alcohol Factor

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on October 3rd, 2012

As I've mentioned previously, "distracted driving" ­­ — talking on cell phones, texting, eating, reading maps, etc. ­­ — has repeatedly been shown to be at least as dangerous to human life as drunk driving. See, for example, Drunk Drivers vs Distracted Drivers and Drunk Driving vs Distracted, Drowsy or Drugged Driving.

So why have penalties become so severe for DUI ­­ and yet remain only a slap on the wrist for distracted driving?

Mothers Against Drunk Driving has been very successful over the years in pressuring legislatures and courts to pass increasingly harsh laws and penalties. They've done this by focusing on "the slaughter on our highways".  But…are they truly focused on saving lives?  Or is there an underlying agenda?

Hint:  If you look at their website, you will find MADD's "Mission Statement":  “The mission of Mothers Against Drunk Driving is to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking.”   Note #1: Saving lives from distracted driving is not a concern — only with drunk driving.  Note #2: The concern for underage drinking is unrelated to driving or victims.

In other words, MADD's concern is, as it was in the Prohibition era many years ago, not "slaughter on the highways" but…. alcohol.  

And in today's news….

State's Distracted Driving Law Comes Under Fire

Fredersicksburg, VA.  Oct. 3Spotsylvania County’s top prosecutor says problems with distracted-driving laws remind him of the old days when drunken driving wasn’t taken seriously enough.

DUI laws eventually were stiffened, but only after deadly crashes piled up, said Bill Neely, Spotsylvania’s veteran commonwealth’s attorney.

The same thing might be happening in Virginia with distracted driving, he said.

In recent years distracted driving has become a target for federal transportation authorities. They say the problem, primarily text messaging and calling, is dangerous and growing. Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board asked for a full ban.

There are 39 states that ban texting while driving. Ten states have laws against drivers using cellphones, which are the primary target because so many drivers use them to talk on or text while behind the wheel…

Virginia’s law against drivers using handheld devices is a secondary offense that carries a $20 fine. It’s also a secondary offense for novice drivers to use a handheld device. A secondary violation means police cannot bring the charge unless the suspect driver is stopped for another offense…

More than 3,000 people nationwide died and another 419,000 were injured in distracted-driving crashes in 2010, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

A 2009 Virginia Tech study determined that the crash risk increases 23 times for distracted drivers. The study included drivers doing such things as texting, talking on a cellphone, reaching for objects and eating.

Neely wonders if people understand how serious the problem is.

“You’re just as distracted as if you were drunk” when you text and drive, Neely said.

Just as dangerous as drunk driving — but only a $20 fine.  And the sounds of silence from MADD……

  • tz

    Carrie Nation tried to exorcise demon rum. But the devil isn't in just one detail.

  • DUI-The Constitution Need Not Apply

    This is a serious problem.  Even more so than DUI.  The state legislators and the Bill Neelys of the world need to get tough.  People are DYING by the thousands!  It matters not that the drivers who maim and kill our loved ones are drunk or distracted.  Applying mascara while driving is dangerous and negligent behavior. 
    It's not practical to legislate against every conceivable behavior that distracts drivers and causes this carnage on the roadways.  The only way to prevent this violence is to outlaw accidents and apply stiff criminal penalties against those causing them.  Any driver found to be "at-fault" in any accident, for any reason, shall be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the new distracted driving laws.  Automatic license suspensions of 6 months, 2 days in jail, and a $500 fine for a first offense.  Anyone with a 3rd or subsequent conviction will be deemed an habitual offender and guilty of a felony, jailed not more than 1 year, fined $5000, 3 year revocation of their drivers license, and attend victim panels.
    Checkpoints would not be effective at catching these criminals in the act.  The perpetrators would simply cease the distracted activity when entering the checkpoint.  Inward facing dash-cams could provide an unbiased record of behavior.  The video would be recorded starting 30 seconds before an impact and stored in the vehicle's black box.  Law enforcement would have unfettered access to the recordings.  Anyone causing an accident has no expectation of privacy.  Conviction rates would be nearly 100%.  The fact there was an accident, coupled with a determination of fault, establishes all the elements of the crime.
    I will be starting a "non-profit" organization to lead the fight against accidents….AAAA (Authoritarians Against All Accidents).  I will establish the victim panels (and receive fees for their attendance), lobby legislatures for ever more strict laws, raise funds, and pay myself a mere 35% of all revenues.  I will also employ court watchers to guard against any unscrupulous prosecutors "letting anyone off easy".
    If we all work together against this mindless mayhem and death on the highways we can make this a safer world.  My dream is that, one day, with enough effort and making criminals of most of the population, we can eliminate the scourge of distracted driving accidents.  Risk must be removed from life….it's for the greater good.         

  • erico49

    Let's try this to make the two issues comparable. For distracted driving, police will be allowed to pull you over for little or no reason. In some states they will be allowed to set up roadblocks. Upon being pulled over you will be forced to turn over your phone . If you refuse, your phone will be forcibly taken from you. The officer can then surf your phone for evidence of texting. And then off to jail you go.

  • DUI-The Constitution Need Not Applyu

    That's genius, erico!  Refusal to turn over a phone would constitute a seperate, per se violation with penalties more severe than DUI and be just cause for tazing and beat-downs.  Any violators' phones and vehicles would be subject to arbitrary seizure by the police and sold at auction to raise funds for LE and AAAA.  I need forward thinking authoritarians like you in the War Against Accidents.  Would you be interested in work as a lobbyist and founding board member?
    AAAA - "Because There's No Such Thing As An Accident"