Question #1…..Is driving while using a cell phone more dangerous than driving while under the influence of alcohol (DUI)?
Well….A detailed study on the effects of cell phone use on driving was conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, and reported in a paper entitled Fatal Distraction? A Comparison of the Cell-Phone Driver and the Drunk Driver given at the Second International Driving Symposium on Human Factors in Driving Assessment, Training and Design. Using a simulator, the researchers measured how subjects reacted to vehicles braking in front of them.
Results? Drivers conversing on a cell phone were involved in more rear-end collisions, and their reactions were 8% slower relative to normal baseline; it also took them 15% longer to return to normal speed. By contrast, drivers who were at or above .08% blood-alcohol levels showed no higher accident rates than normal, nor did they exhibit significant variation from normal baselines for reaction times or return to normal speeds.
The conclusion of the researchers: Drivers on cell phones showed greater impairment, less responsive behavior and more accidents than "drunk" drivers.
Question #2…..What are the penalties for the two driving behaviors?
Using California as a fairly typical example, a first-offense DUI is punishable by up to 6 months in jail, license suspension of 5 months, fines of about $2000, and a 3-month DUI school. This does not include non-penalty consequences such as attorney’s fees, high insurance costs, possible loss of employment or professional licensing, loss of child custody, etc.
Again using California, driving while talking on a hand-held cell phone is punishable by….a $76 fine.