Benjamin Franklin once compiled a dictionary of words and phrases to cleverly say someone had too much to drink. Some of our favorites include:
Has drank more than he’s bled
He’s et a toad and a half for breakfast
Seen a flock of moons
The good news for Ben Franklin and the gentry of his day is that cars and trucks hadn’t been invented yet. There aren’t many reports of horse and carriage accidents in the archives. While many people read Franklin’s newspaper, it’s doubtful many read his Gazette while riding their horse – unlike today’s drivers who read, write, and send text messages constantly.
What are the dangers of drunk driving and distracted driving?
For those of us in the 21st century, drinking and driving is a very dangerous mix. The dangers of drunk driving are staggering. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 11,654 people died in driving-driving accidents in 2020. In addition to causing a high number of fatal accidents, drunk driving often causes catastrophic and permanent injuries including traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord damage and paralysis, traumatic amputations, burn injuries, fractures, and other very severe injuries.
At the .08 blood alcohol level (BAC), the legal limit in North Dakota and most states, a driver’s muscle coordination becomes poor which affects the driver’s reaction time, speech, hearing, and vision. Drivers have more difficulty noticing dangers, their judgment and reasoning is poorer and their memory is impaired. Drivers with a .08 BAC have difficulty concentrating, impaired perceptions, and other deficiencies that increase the risk of a serious or deadly accident.
The NHTSA also reports that distracted driving killed 3,142 people in 2020. Distracted driving includes any activity that takes a driver’s eyes off of the road, mind off of how to recognize and respond to emergency situations, and hands off the steering wheel. Common examples include texting while driving, reading text messages, talking on a smartphone that isn’t hands-free, eating, drinking, looking at a GPS, or using an entertainment system.
Texting is the most dangerous activity. Text messaging is illegal in North Dakota for all drivers. Drivers under 18 cannot use “any electronic communications devices, including cell phones.” There is a fine for violations. Drivers under 16 will have points applied to their driving record.
Effective August 1, 2017, the law was expanded to include distracted driving to mean any distraction that impairs the ability to safely operate the vehicle. If you’re distracted while driving and commit a traffic violation, the driver (any age) can be given a $100 citation for distracted driving.
The culture of ignoring dangerous driving conduct
Tragically, many drivers know full well that impaired driving and many other driving actions are dangerous, yet they engage in unsafe driving practices anyway.
AAA Foundation reported in December 2022 that the NHTSA found that unsafe driving practices such as the use of alcohol, speeding, and not using a seatbelt rose in 2022. The foundation’s 2021 Traffic Safety Culture Index report cites numerous key findings that are contributing to unsafe driving nationwide. The findings discuss our flawed attitudes including aggressive driving and driving while drowsy.
When it comes to driving while impaired, nearly 19 in 20 drivers understand that drinking enough alcohol (to the point the driver’s BAC will be too high) is very or extremely dangerous. Yet, one in 14 drivers said they have driven while impaired in the past month. Nearly two out of three drivers said that driving within an hour of marijuana use is very or extremely dangerous. The Index states that “93 percent of drivers believed people important to them would disapprove of the behavior, and only 5% reported doing so in the past month.”
When it comes to distracted driving, the disconnect between what we know and what we do is just as striking:
- The percentage of drivers who believe texting/emailing on a hand-held cell phone is very or extremely dangerous is 92 percent.
- The percentage of drivers who believe reading on a hand-held cell phone is very or extremely dangerous is 92 percent.
- The percentage of drivers who think that holding and talking on a hand-held cell phone is very or extremely dangerous is 77 percent.
- Just 17 percent of drivers believe using hands-free technology is very or extremely dangerous.
Despite these high numbers, 26 percent of drivers said they have sent a text or email within the prior 30 days. The numbers are even higher for other uses – 36 percent said that they have read a text or email in the prior 30 days and 37 percent said they have talked on a cell phone in the prior 30 days. The index states that 57 percent “indicated they had used a hands-free technology to talk or send texts/emails while driving.”
Your right to hold impaired and distracted drivers accountable
There’s no excuse for drunk driving or distracted driving. It’s plain common sense. Both types of conduct cause a driver to lose control of his/her vehicle. Drivers who want to drink should arrange for alternate transportation. Drivers who want to text, talk to people outside their car, or eat should do so before they get into a car or after they arrive at their destination. But as the data shows, they probably won’t.
Our Minot car accident lawyers are skilled at showing drivers were intoxicated or distracted. We work with your doctors to verify your injuries, the medical care you need, and all the ways your injuries are making your life difficult. If a loved one dies, we file a wrongful death action on behalf of the family.
If a drunk or distracted driver caused you harm or took the life of a loved one, Larson Law Firm P.C., has the experience and resources to help you obtain justice. Our Minot personal injury lawyers have been fighting for injury victims and families since 1979. We demand compensation for all your current and future medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, scarring and disfigurement, and other financial and personal damages. Call us or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation today. We maintain offices in in Minot, Bismarck, and Fargo.
Mark Larson is a Certified Civil Trial Specialist and Certified Civil Pre-Trial Specialist focusing on personal injury, motor vehicle, wrongful death, and oil field claims. Since 1979, Larson Law Firm has served the injured throughout North Dakota. Read more about Mark V. Larson