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The surprising similarity between drunk and distracted drivers

For decades, law enforcement organizations and civilian groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving worked tirelessly to educate the public about the risks of driving while under the influence of alcohol. These efforts were quite successful at ensuring that people know the risks involved with impaired driving.

In the last decade, that push for awareness related to crashes has focused more on distracted driving than on drunk driving. Specifically, lawmakers, police organizations and even citizens' groups have wanted to draw public attention to the serious, statistically relevant risks associated with texting and driving simultaneously.

Like drunk driving, distracted driving has become notorious as a leading cause of preventable collisions across the country. However, both of these dangerous driving behaviors have something else noteworthy in common.

People know that it's dangerous, and they do it anyway

Thanks, in part, to public awareness campaigns, you would find it very difficult to locate even one person who didn't know that driving while under the influence of alcohol is a statistically dangerous decision. The majority of people on the roads also readily acknowledge that driving while texting or otherwise looking down at the phone is inherently dangerous.

The big issue here with both drunk driving and distracted driving is that people believe they are special or unique. That belief means that while they know it's dangerous for everyone else to drive and text, they think they will somehow have the skill or ability to do so without endangering themselves or others.

While it certainly is true that every human is unique and special in their own way, that doesn't mean anyone has the ability to drive safely while chemically impaired or react in a timely manner to changes in traffic conditions when their hands, eyes or mind aren't engaged in the task of driving. No one, no matter how good of a driver or how fast of a texter they may be, can safely drive while reading or composing a text.

Like with drunk driving, err on the side of caution when it comes to texting

To avoid endangering themselves and the potential legal consequences that come with impaired driving charges, most people have personal rules that they follow regarding drinking. They may limit themselves to only one drink before expecting someone else to drive or calling a cab. They may also have a zero-tolerance policy, particularly if they have to drive others, such as their children.

You should consider adopting a similar approach to texting and driving. Institute a personal rule that you will always pull over if you absolutely need to check a message. Ideally, you will turn your phone off or at least turn the ringer off before getting in your car so that notifications won't distract you. While you can't stop someone else from doing it, you can at least avoid endangering yourself and others.

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