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Jalopnik: Drunk Driving Safer Than Texting While Driving [Driving]

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jordan_brown_Mike_Austin.jpgOne of us is a text-messager-aholic, constantly fighting the urge to text (or tweet) while driving. The boys from CarandDriver spent time determining just how bad it really is versus, say, drunk driving. Turns out drunk driving's safer. Here's why.

Former Jalopnik contributor Mike Austin wired a Racelogic VBOX III data logger C&D's long-term Honda Pilot, recording vehicle speed via the VBOX's GPS antenna and brake-pedal position and steering angle via the Pilot's OBD II port. He then wired a red light to the windshield to play the role of brake lights from an imaginary car ahead of the Pilot. When the red light lit up, the driver's supposed to hit the brakes.

Each trial, one with C&D young buck Jordan Brown and his trusty iPhone, the other with old man Eddie Alterman and a Samsung Alias (we're assuming he hasn't yet received his Hachette-assigned Blackberry yet), would have the driver respond five times to the light, and the slowest reaction time — the time between activation of the light and driver hitting the brakes — was dropped.hey'd

How'd they fare? Let's let Mike tell us how Jordan Brown fared:

Intern Brown's baseline reaction time at 35 mph of 0.45 second worsened to 0.57 while reading a text, improved to 0.52 while writing a text, and returned almost to the baseline while impaired by alcohol, at 0.46. At 70 mph, his baseline reaction was 0.39 second, while the reading (0.50), texting (0.48), and drinking (0.50) numbers were similar. But the averages don't tell the whole story. Looking at Jordan's slowest reaction time at 35 mph, he traveled an extra 21 feet (more than a car length) before hitting the brakes while reading and went 16 feet longer while texting. At 70 mph, a vehicle travels 103 feet every second, and Brown's worst reaction time while reading at that speed put him about 30 feet (31 while typing) farther down the road versus 15 feet while drunk."

And C&D head honcho Eddie Alterman? He fared much worse.

While reading a text and driving at 35 mph, his average baseline reaction time of 0.57 second nearly tripled, to 1.44 seconds. While texting, his response time was 1.36 seconds. These figures correspond to an extra 45 and 41 feet, respectively, before hitting the brakes. His reaction time after drinking averaged 0.64 second and, by comparison, added only seven feet.


The results at 70 mph were similar: Alterman's response time while reading a text was 0.35 second longer than his base performance of 0.56 second, and writing a text added 0.68 second to his reaction time. But his intoxicated number increased only 0.04 second over the base score, to a total of 0.60 second.

So what does this mean — which is worse? It seems to us that if you are young and virile, it's safer to be drunk driving than it is to be texting while driving, simply because you're spending more time looking at the road even if you're inebriated. If, however, you're old n' busted, it's safer to be driven by one of those short community home vans. Also, they shouldn't be texting while driving because it's hard for them to see the little buttons to press. Silly old people — stick to drinking, not texting.

We've got video from this morning's Today Show where Mike and Eddie show Phil LeBeau how to hold a whiskey bottle properly behind the wheel coming shortly. Want to read more — head over to CarandDriver.

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I can't appreciate the whole 'which stupid action is safer' test. To me, it's simple:

If you text while driving, I don't want to be anywhere around you.

If you've drank alcohol and get into a car, I don't want to be anywhere around you.

If you can, but don't like to get off your cell phone, or pull over when it rings, or at least use a hands-free device while driving, I don't want to be anywhere around you.

Why compare which is worse? To illicit some sort of public reaction because everyone knows drunk driving is bad? They're all stupid things to do, regardless if even I believe texting is, by far, just as bad as behind drunk behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Edited by ShadowDog
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I can't appreciate the whole 'which stupid action is safer' test. To me, it's simple:

If you text while driving, I don't want to be anywhere around you.

If you've drank alcohol and get into a car, I don't want to be anywhere around you.

If you can, but don't like to get off your cell phone, or pull over when it rings, or at least use a hands-free device while driving, I don't want to be anywhere around you.

Why compare which is worse? To illicit some sort of public reaction because everyone knows drunk driving is bad? They're all stupid things to do, regardless if even I believe texting is, by far, just as bad as behind drunk behind the wheel of a vehicle.

:yes:

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messaging records are much harder to obtain typically than having someone blow into a breathalyzer..... but it does show both are quite imparing...

you can't keep drunks of the roads, you can't keep texters of the road, but the crashes of both may need a look at for court reasons.....

????

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I think they are showing which is worse because 1) lots of people text and drive. and 2) It is a wakeup call that when you do text and drive, you are in WORSE shape then if you are drunk.

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Thats way cars still should have the "corded" dash phones.

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I can't appreciate the whole 'which stupid action is safer' test. To me, it's simple:

If you text while driving, I don't want to be anywhere around you.

If you've drank alcohol and get into a car, I don't want to be anywhere around you.

If you can, but don't like to get off your cell phone, or pull over when it rings, or at least use a hands-free device while driving, I don't want to be anywhere around you.

Why compare which is worse? To illicit some sort of public reaction because everyone knows drunk driving is bad? They're all stupid things to do, regardless if even I believe texting is, by far, just as bad as behind drunk behind the wheel of a vehicle.

:word: /thread

Edited by Lamar
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It makes sense that texting or reading a text while driving would impair you greater than while drunk, depending of course on the level of drunkenness. While drunk, you still have your eyes on the road and aren't relying on your peripheral vision to see changes in the environment in front of you. Texting is horrible to do while driving, and there's no getting around that. I only ever text while at a stop light....... or while driving through a school zone at 45 mph.

Now try driving while texting AND drunk!

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Drunk dialing (or texting) usually ends badly.

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Most people are barely smart enough to operate a vehicle without distractions as it is.

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Most people are barely smart enough to operate a vehicle without distractions as it is.

As if so many believe driving is 'down-time' that can be used to catch up on things... breakfast, reading the paper, applying makeup, making calls, operating a laptop, ... some people have a hard enough time doing two of these things at once, but they'll be fearless to do even one of them when moving at over 60 MPH? We are a world of idiots.

I should note that my mother-in-law doesn't like to do anything while driving. She's a terrible driver, simply just not observant enough when making turns or backing out of parking spots... or even navigating in a parking garage. We will never allow any of our kids to go anywhere with her because of how twitchy and nervous around other vehicles in the city she is. The point is that, like DF mentioned, there are people with poor driving skills just like my mother-in-law whom have no reservations about chatting or texting on the cell while in traffic. I can't stand being around these people; however, I do find them entertaining to watch from a safe distance.

Edited by ShadowDog
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As if so many believe driving is 'down-time' that can be used to catch up on things... breakfast, reading the paper, applying makeup, making calls, operating a laptop, ... some people have a hard enough time doing two of these things at once, but they'll be fearless to do even one of them when moving at over 60 MPH? We are a world of idiots.

I should note that my mother-in-law doesn't like to do anything while driving. She's a terrible driver, simply just not observant enough when making turns or backing out of parking spots... or even navigating in a parking garage. We will never allow any of our kids to go anywhere with her because of how twitchy and nervous around other vehicles in the city she is. The point is that, like DF mentioned, there are people with poor driving skills just like my mother-in-law whom have no reservations about chatting or texting on the cell while in traffic. I can't stand being around these people; however, I do find them entertaining to watch from a safe distance.

The worst part is that poor drivers are in the majority and not the minority.

IF we need any sort of new laws it should be much more stringent driving tests, and perhaps reviews or something to determine whether or not a person is smart enough to be operating thousands of pounds of metal.

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