Both intoxication and distraction are dangerous for driving driving. Either can cause fatal traffic accidents. Combining the two additionally increases the risk of crashes, according to research.
Study participants used a driving simulator. Their primary goal was to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of them. Their secondary goal was to keep a stable lane position. All participants engaged in distractions and half consumed alcohol to the point of legal intoxication (BAC of 0.08 g/dl).
Researchers then compared sober driving while distracted to driving intoxicated without distraction. Distraction produced more serious changes in driving behavior than did intoxication for both primary and secondary driving goals. However, impairment was increased when participants were both intoxicated and distracted.
This research is consistent with earlier findings of others. That is, cell phone use is highly distracting. It makes such phone users even more dangerous than intoxicated drivers at the .08 to .10 BAC levels.
The take home messageis simple. Don’t drive while intoxicated and don’t drive while using a cell phone (even a hands-free model). And don’t even think of doing both simultaneously.
Resources: Intoxication and Distraction are Dangerous
Espejo, R. Cell Phones and Driving. Farmington Hills, MI: Cenage, 2015.
Hole, G. The Psychology of Driving. London: Routledge, 2019.
Netzley, P. How Serious is Teen Drunk and Distracted Driving? San Diego: ReferencePoint, 2014.
Oregon DOT. Distracted Driving can be Deadly. Salem: Oregon DOT, 2018.
Simms, J. Teens and Distracting Driving. San Diego: ReferencePoint, 2019. Source
Rakauskas, M., et al. Combined effects of alcohol and distraction on driving performance, Acc Anal Preve, 2008, 1742-9.