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Distracted Driving vs. Drunk Driving: Comparing the Stats

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man texting and driving

Distracted driving and drunk driving are two major causes of accidents, injuries, and vehicle deaths that occur each year. Sadly, these deadly consequences could be avoided if all motorists drove with the duty of care that they should.


While distracted driving is less notorious than drunk driving, it can be just as dangerous. In fact, distracted driving is responsible for causing more nonfatal accidents when compared to drinking and driving. Below, we discuss these two dangerous driving behaviors in more detail.

Defining These Behaviors

Drunk Driving

In New York, driving under the influence (DWI) is a crime that occurs when a driver’s blood-alcohol content (BAC) is at 0.08% or higher. However, even if a person’s BAC level is not over the legal limit of 0.08%, their consumption of alcohol can still have a negative impact on their ability to operate a vehicle.


At .02 percent BAC, a driver will have a decline in visual function. They may struggle to recognize turn signals, have delayed braking response, and be less aware of street signs. Because of this, even if a driver’s BAC level is under 0.08%, the individual can still be charged with driving while alcohol-impaired (DWAI) in New York.

Distracted Driving

The CDC identifies three types of distracted driving:

  • Visual distractions - taking your eyes off of the road

  • Manual distractions - taking your hands off of the steering wheel

  • Cognitive distractions - taking your mind off of driving


The Impact of Driving

Drunk Driving

Having a single drink can cause a negative impact on a person's driving. It is not necessary to have a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for a person to experience a decline in their cognitive abilities. At a low level, a person may begin to lose their inhibitions as well as reasoning skills. This may cause them to drive in a more reckless manner.


Increased BAC levels result in even more reckless driving. Increased drinking causes a person to have impaired vision, loss of coordination, and poor decision-making skills. This can make the simplest driving tasks, like braking or staying in a lane, extremely difficult or impossible.

Distracted Driving

Motorists have to deal with many different types of distractions when behind the wheel, including operating a GPS, applying makeup, children in the backseat, or calls and texts.


Texting while driving is easily one of the most dangerous distractions, as it’s something that can be considered all three types of distractions that we discussed above. In fact, when a driver’s eyes are off the road for even five seconds when sending a text, a vehicle can cover the length of an entire football field while driving at 55 mph.

Comparing the Numbers

Drunk Driving

Here are some statistics showing when drunk driving accidents occur most often:

  • Accidents involving drunk drivers most often happen over the weekend and between midnight and 3 a.m.

  • The BAC level of drivers involved in fatal accidents is commonly 0.14 percent. This is almost twice the legal limit.

  • 15.1% of 18 to 20 year olds reported driving under the influence of alcohol in 2010.

Distracted Driving

Below, we listed some relevant statistics for distracted driving accidents:

  • The most common days for distracted driving accidents are 17.4 percent on Fridays and 15.9 percent on Saturdays.

  • There are over 650,000 people who are driving and using an electronic device at any given time.

  • Approximately 25 percent of distracted driving accidents happen between 3 p.m. and 5:59 p.m.

  • Over 58 percent of the accidents involved some type of driver distraction for approximately six seconds before an accident occurs

Applicable Laws

Drunk Driving

In New York, the first offense of driving under the influence (DWI) can involve a fine of $1,000, license revocation for six months, and mandatory Ignition Interlock Device installation. A second DWI conviction within ten years from the first one can result in a fine of $5,000, incarceration of up to four years, and license suspension for a minimum of a year.

Distracted Driving

In the state of New York, a driver is not permitted to use an electronic device while operating a motor vehicle. Those who break this law could face fines and accumulate points on their driver's license. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to completely eliminate distracted driving, as activities such as eating/drinking or personal grooming while driving are not illegal.


The bottom line is that drivers must recognize both of these behaviors are dangerous and take proactive steps to ensure to prevent them. Those who are consuming alcoholic beverages should call an Uber or Lyft instead of getting behind the wheel. Motorists should put the phone down and eliminate any potential distractions before getting on the road.


If you or a loved one is injured in a drunk driving or distracted driving accident, turn to the personal injury attorneys at Foley Griffin for effective legal representation in your corner. We will review the evidence of your case to determine liable parties and fight hard for your financial recovery.


Contact our firm at (888) 966-8480 to schedule your free consultation.

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