The data, the research and common sense tell us that both behaviors can be dangerous: drunken driving and distracted driving. But according to Colorado Springs law enforcement, distracted drivers are now the leading cause of traffic fatalities in the city 70 miles south of Denver.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said texting while driving can be six times more dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol. The NHTSA also says that while drunken driving accidents are declining, distracted driving crashes are rising.
Rather than rolling out sobriety checkpoints this summer, Colorado Springs Police have increased the number of patrols looking for distracted drivers, according to a news report. The city is also spending more to educate residents on the dangers of texting, talking on the phone, adjusting GPS and paying attention to other technological gadgets rather than the road.
The state of Colorado says on its website that state law prohibits texting for all driving, while talking on the phone is illegal for drivers under age 18.
The fine for texting while behind the wheel is $50 for a first offense. The fine is doubled for a second offense. Compare that to a first offense for DUI: you can be sentenced to up to a year in jail and be fined up to $1,000 for a first offense. You can also be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle, plus be ordered to do community service and attend alcohol education classes. Your driver’s license can also be suspended for 9 months.
DUI offenders can also expect to see a significant jump in their auto insurance premiums and suffer lost job opportunities as well.
The vast difference in how society treats drunken driving and distracted driving might one day be addressed by changes in law. For now, those pulled over and arrested for DUI or DWAI are the ones who benefit most by discussing their legal options with an experienced Denver defense attorney.