Should Texting while Driving Penalties Be Similar to DUI?

As drivers, we are constantly reminded of the dangers of drinking and driving and the harsh penalties associated with drinking under the influence. We have touched on the dangers of drinking and driving but should texting while driving penalties be similar to those of DUIs?

study by Car and Driver Magazine suggests that texting while driving is even more of an impairment than drinking and driving. Rigging a car with a red light to alert drivers when to brake, the magazine tested how long it takes to hit the brake when sober, when legally drunk at .08, when reading and e-mail and when sending a text – the results were alarming. The results from the brake test were that when the driver was unimpaired it took him .54 seconds to brake. When he was legally drunk the stopping distance increased by four feet. However, reading an e-mail added 36 feet and sending a text added an additional 70 feet of extra distance he traveled after being alerted to break. The driver was slower reacting and breaking when e-mailing and texting.

An additional study conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory in London found when a driver texts while driving, his or her reaction time will decrease by 35%, while a legally drunk driver reaction time decreased by 12%.

Because drinking and driving is less socially acceptable than texting and driving the penalties are not the same. Drinking and driving over the legal limit is illegal, while texting and driving is not illegal nationwide. In Arizona, Tucson and Phoenix have laws regarding texting while driving that prohibit drivers from texting while behind the wheel with fines up to $250. DUI’s in Arizona face much hasher penalties with greater fines and the potential for jail time. If texting and driving is equally if not more dangerous than drinking and driving, shouldn't there be similar penalties?