Most people realize the dangers in driving after consuming alcohol or drugs. Drunk driving causes a great deal of accidents all across the country. The penalties vary from state to state, but most places generally issue hefty fines and suspend the offender’s license for a period of time.

The prevalence of cell phones is raising new questions about just how dangerous distracted driving can be. You’ve probably seen someone using their phone while driving. Maybe you’ve even been that person. Some experts even argue that distracted driving is at least as bad as driving under the influence. New studies are examining the effects, circumstances and consequences of each type of offense.

How drivers respond to drunk or distracted driving

Though you may believe that you’re safe to drive after consuming just one alcoholic beverage, your blood alcohol content may tell a different story. A higher BAC will raise the likelihood that a driver is affected, but even a BAC of just .02 percent can mean a reduction in visual ability and a person’s capacity to multitask.

The most common reason for distracted driving is cell phone use, which can produce the three results seen in any instance of distracted driving – the driver stops looking at the road, stops paying attention and takes his or her hands off the wheel. Some experts warn that responding to just one text message is like driving the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour with your eyes closed.

Data for drunk or distracted driving

There were over 10,000 deaths from drunk driving in 2015, compared with almost 3,500 deaths due to distracted driving. There were more injuries due to distracted driving, though, with nearly 400,000 injuries compared to nearly 300,000 for drunk driving. It is safe to assume that current distracted driving accident rates remain high.

Men are more likely to be involved in a fatal drunk driving accident, while women are more likely to text while driving. Over 20 percent of drunk driving accidents happen to people aged 26 to 29. Distracted driving is more likely to happen to drivers who range in age from 16 to 24.

When do drunk or distracted driving accidents happen?

Car accidents that result from drunk driving are more likely to happen between 12 and three a.m. and on the weekends. Most distracted driving crashes happen in the afternoon, between three and six p.m. on Fridays. Fatal car accidents due to drunk driving commonly involve a driver with a BAC of .14 percent. Experts estimate that around 660,000 people are using some kind of electronic device while driving, at any point in time.

Penalties for drunk and distracted driving

Punishments for drunk driving are different state to state, but Louisiana can sentence a drunk driver to between 2 days and 6 months of jail time and issue a fine of $1,000. Louisiana can also opt to suspend a perpetrator’s license for up to 90 days, and they may require past offenders to use an ignition interlock device to operate their car. The penalty for a first offense for texting and driving in Louisiana is a $175 fine, with subsequent violations punishable by a fine of $500.

Though there appears to be no clear “winner” in the debate over which type of offense is more dangerous, it is easy to see that both types of offenses carry a risk. If you or someone you care about has been hurt by a drunk or distracted driver, there are legal options available to ensure that an offender takes responsibility. It only takes one choice to change a life forever.