Reading Email While Driving Drunk – Guess What Happened?

distracted-and-impaired-drivingA teacher in Chesterfield, Virginia was arrested recently after a DWI crash. What makes the event slightly more interesting than the average drunk driving incident is that the suspect admitted that she was reading an email at the time of the crash.

There is a controversy among road safety advocates these days about the comparative dangers of distracted and impaired driving. Both activities – both crimes – claim far too many lives. For that reason, it’s important to reduce them both by whatever means necessary – awareness, punishment, or technology.

A Case of Distracted and Impaired Driving

But in a sense the question is moot, because drunk driving is distracted driving. The only safe way to drive is with full attention on what’s ahead of you. Reading emails and texting is removing one’s focus from the road. But alcohol affects concentration, so the mind drifts away from the task of driving – and that’s also distraction of a type. Loss of coordination, slowed reactions, and diminished senses also figure in, but wandering attention is a large part of why drunk driving claims some 30,000 lives a year.

Alcohol is also why people make bad decisions – like the decision to read one’s email while driving. Alcohol, then, is probably at the root of this needless crash.

Checking email while driving drunk is, then, doubly dangerous. We have technology for preventing drunk driving now – the ignition interlock, which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. Companies are working on similar technology to prevent a driver from texting and phoning while behind the wheel. Eventually such technology will be mandatory.

Until then, don’t drink and catch up on email and drive.