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Transportation Technology

Distracted Driving: Everyone Hates It, But Most of Us Do It, Study Finds 140

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Insurance company Esurance has a new study out on distracted driving, and it makes for interesting reading. Almost everyone agrees distracted driving is bad, yet it's still remarkably prevalent. Even drivers who report rarely driving distracted also report that they engage in distracting behaviors. The study also raises some questions about the growing complexity of modern vehicles, particularly the user interfaces they confront us with. The Esurance report includes survey data from more than a thousand participants. More than 90 percent said that browsing for apps, texting, and emailing were distracting. Yet more than half of daily commuters admitted to doing it. The survey also found that the longer your commute, the greater the chance is you'll get distracted, probably by your phone. Even participants who reported they were "rarely distracted" admitted to distracting behavior like talking on the phone or even viewing GPS Navigation data. (Any task performed while driving should be able to be performed in under two seconds to avoid becoming a distraction.)
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Distracted Driving: Everyone Hates It, But Most of Us Do It, Study Finds

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  • The radio is distracting. But it's nothing compared to billboards.

    Or LED-based cop lights, for that matter.

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      I was going to work early one morning after working several weeks of 12 hour days without a day off. Tired, half awake, I reached over to tune the radio to a hard rock station to help me get fully awake and looked up just in time to swerve away from some idiot jogging on the side of the road. Not a side street or subdivision but a state highway with a 55 posted speed limit. He came within about 3 feet of getting mowed down. I had no further trouble staying awake the rest of the drive as my heart was racing.

    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Saturday February 17, 2018 @08:54AM (#56141322)

      The thing is, because we drive safely on a daily basis and probably had avoided some accident do to our quick reflexes. We think ourselves as excellent drivers, however in the matter of fact, we are nearly all average drivers, who makes mistakes from time to time.
      So while driving on a daily bases you have ran across 1 or 2 idiot drivers. out of the thousands of cars that are on the road that you need to interact on your drive. However chances are that idiot driver is just as good driver as you are, it is just not a good day for them
      I know once in a while I am not having a good day, I miss an exit, a car is in the blind spot, my foot is a little to heavy or light on the petal... A slew of stuff where I could had been killed if not for the reflexes of the other drivers. Now this isn't a daily problem, most days I go along no problems, I am a perfectly boring motorist. But lets say I have 1 bad day where I make a lapse of judgement for a few seconds. During that time, I am the Idiot driver who is a problem. Now we multiply the problem with thousands of drivers who are perfectly good drivers 99.9% of the time. that still means there there is at least 1 in 1000 driver on the road interacting with you nearly every day.

      For me to be safe, I need to admit my faults as an imperfect driver, this humility means I will normally take extra percussion just in case I do something stupid. To risk contradicting myself the drivers who see themselves as good or excellent drivers often put themselves and other in more danger, because they feel they can successfully navigate a world with less tolerances. But still they are fine 99.8% of the time. However that 1/1000 extra causes that 1 problem driver a day to 2 a day.

      There are things that distract us all the time, and it is nearly impossible to legislate all of them. Just being in a bad mood can be just as dangerous as driving on the phone. However if there are things we can control, we should. Drunk/Drugged driving, Talking/Texting, Tends to be the biggest thing.
      But other things distract too. The reason why when we are lost in the car, your turn down the radio. Is because you need less distractions to navigate an unfamiliar area.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I do not own a car. I bicycle as my main transport.

      I've seen other cyclists riding while staring intently at their phones.

    I've seen accidents caused by same.

    I do not know what the solution is. You can tell people not to do that, and they already know not to, but it remains that every single day I see a driver, pedestrian or sometimes a cyclist paying more attention to phone than surroundings.

    • I need both hands on the handlebars to keep the bike straight while maintaining any significant speed.
      Sometimes one brake isn't working well and I need the other hand ready to apply the other brake; that can be a problem even if realizing the need to brake.

    • I think the solution is automated vehicles. Humans engage in all kinds of stupid behavior behind the wheel of a vehicle whether it's looking at their phones or being immensely intoxicated.

      The other alternative is to do nothing and hope that millions of years of natural selection and evolution will result in human populations that don't look at phones while driving.
      • At the moment it doesn't sit well yet to claim autopilot will free you to play on your smartphone. But that will become its main selling value, not safety.

        • It's more of a carrot/stick situation. What almost all the other commenters are pointing out is that the stick (ie, making it illegal) hasn't worked at all. If it is going to happen anyway (and yes, it will), then we might as well turn it into a carrot where this inevitable (on a societal level) behavior becomes much safer.
      • As long as I still have a choice to use a manual vehicle, I have no issue with drunks risking their lives to automation.
  • Not me (Score:5, Funny)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Friday February 16, 2018 @11:40PM (#56139930)

    Instead, I do distracted train riding. I’m so reckless, I’ve been known to read books while the train flies along. If I’m feeling especially daring, I’ll close my eyes - sometimes for minutes at a time.

    So be careful if you see my train coming!

    • by darkain ( 749283 )

      As humorous as this was intended, it actually hits a little close to home. I'm just a few blocks down the road from where the fatal Amtrak crash was a few weeks ago.

    • ...says the unionized train engineer.

  • The biggest source of distracted driving: "GPS signal lost."

    Because I know the damn map app took five minutes to warn me it had no idea where it was.

  • by mentil ( 1748130 ) on Friday February 16, 2018 @11:48PM (#56139956)

    This is the dumbest thing I've ev

    --Sent from my iPhone

  • by dicobalt ( 1536225 ) on Friday February 16, 2018 @11:49PM (#56139960)
    My dash cam has captured two car accidents where you can clearly see the driver is playing with their phone. One where a woman with a baby and a toddler in the car drove at 35mph directly into the back of a work van while wandering between lanes. Another where a guy simply drifted off the road and into a rain ditch at 45mph causing the car to go airborne and do a 360 spin in mid air. I gave the videos to police and the insurance companies. Everyone should be using a dash cam.
    • Why is it your job to rat people out to insurance companies?
      • Rats get paid. He's doing it for spite. Which is awesome.

        • I hate texting drivers, but I hate corepirate in$urance firms equally.
        • Yup, because distracted driving is something we should protect people for.

          I hope the drivers in those situations got shat on and had their licenses taken away. They deserve harsh punishment, not protection.

          • I hope the drivers in those situations got shat on and had their licenses taken away. They deserve harsh punishment, not protection.

            If people demonstrate an inability to drive, then taking away their driving privilege is protecting them and everyone else.

      • I do the same thing. It's NOT my job, that's not why I do it. It's an "Up yours!" to the distracted driver.
      • by Gavrielkay ( 1819320 ) on Saturday February 17, 2018 @12:55AM (#56140200)
        Anyone who thinks their fucking phone is more important than their own or someone else's life deserves to get ratted out to anyone who will listen. A ticket and/or insurance rate hike is a much smaller price than some people pay for that idiocy. Sadly, it isn't always the idiot who pays.
      • by PrimaryConsult ( 1546585 ) on Saturday February 17, 2018 @01:10AM (#56140264)

        Because someone is paying for the damage and getting a rate hike, might as well make damn sure it's the asshat who caused it.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Because insurance companies are just middlemen who collect funds from you and me ("premiums") to pay for the damages. Less damage = smaller premiums. People should pay for the consequences of their own stupidity. Group insurance should be used to pay for things beyond your control, like if the guy next to you has a flat tire and hits you -- not if you yourself drive into a ditch because you couldn't be bothered to LOOK WHERE YOU WERE GOING.

      • by Calydor ( 739835 )

        Because if enough people start having dashcams, then it's the guys who are actually at fault that get punished.

        Do you hate justice?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        ... rat people out to insurance companies?

        First, I feel for the fucked-up driver not getting a free crash-repair job but having to deal with one's own mistakes is a big part of being an adult.

        Second, if you feel for the fucked-up driver so much, your children can walk the road that driver uses.

      • Funny when someone stands up for truth and doing what is right they are a rat?

        I think we need more people who are actually public servants, do things to serve the public as a whole.

        Of course b0s0z0ku would rather that people can get away with lies and acts of public endangerment.
      • Why is it your job to rat people out to insurance companies?

        Why is it your job to argue with people on Slashdot? It's not. Some people just do things as a hobby.

    • suka!

  • by SlithyMagister ( 822218 ) on Saturday February 17, 2018 @12:05AM (#56140014)
    People follow far too closely.
    From the summary:
    "Any task performed while driving should be able to be performed in under two seconds to avoid becoming a distraction"

    The rule of thumb for vehicle separation on highways is to leave two seconds between you and the vehicle ahead. The next time you are on a busy highway, Note how few drivers actually leave that much space. And when you do leave such a gap some jockey cuts right in.

    The two misbehaviours taken together are leaving a lot of wreckage around.
    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Actually, the problem is that people engaging in some distraction leave extra space between themselves and the traffic ahead. And they do this by slowing down by sometimes as much as 10 or 15 MPH below traffic flow. And they end up becoming a log jam in the middle of the road. They don't care if someone cuts in front of them because that person will inevitably speed up and increase the gap. Leaving them free to fiddle with their phones. Meanwhile, everyone else piles up behind them until an opportunity to p

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        Actually, the problem is that people engaging in some distraction leave extra space between themselves and the traffic ahead. And they do this by slowing down by sometimes as much as 10 or 15 MPH below traffic flow. And they end up becoming a log jam in the middle of the road. They don't care if someone cuts in front of them because that person will inevitably speed up and increase the gap. Leaving them free to fiddle with their phones. Meanwhile, everyone else piles up behind them until an opportunity to pass comes up.

        But let's be honest here, if you're objectively counting minutes and seconds very few drivers are that slow that they cause you to miss more than a single light or a minute or two of highway driving. The problem is that many people are barely on time or running a bit late and it's extremely frustrating with this Sunday driver who doesn't care that you got places to be and schedules to keep. I've felt that road rage, I've seen my friends feel that road rage, even when we're not stressed it's like "Oh, come o

        • by PPH ( 736903 )

          Think about how you'd measure road capacity. It would be the number of cars passing a point per second. So if someone slows down and leaves a large gap, they are 'consuming' far more than their share of capacity. Plus all the other people stuck behind them who have to slow down until they can pass. If you have seen any traffic study videos, you'll see that it doesn't take many of these slowpokes to decrease the overall flow significantly. And the only answer engineers have for this problem (at this time*) i

    • The rule of thumb is to leave one car space for every 10 mph that you're going.
    • The next time you are on a busy highway, Note how few drivers actually leave that much space. And when you do leave such a gap some jockey cuts right in.

      The nice thing about that is that the jockey is now in front of you, and getting farther away from you. While a bank of more reasonable people is forming behind you.

  • by Fringe ( 6096 ) on Saturday February 17, 2018 @12:07AM (#56140020)

    A similar "study" in Washington State this past year reported similar findings, but actually included the questions. From memory, they had defined "driving" as being behind the wheel, en-route. Not necessarily moving. In Seattle's stop-and-slow traffic, you can spend five minutes stopped at a light; it's not "distracted driving" to check your email when there's no velocity and no where to go.

    Let's get the questions (which are suspiciously missing, even as they trumpet "occasional distracted driving") before we attribute any credibility to this study.

    • by SlithyMagister ( 822218 ) on Saturday February 17, 2018 @12:15AM (#56140040)
      I can't speak for Washington State, but in British Columbia it is against the law to use a handheld device while stopped at a traffic light (or in a traffic jam).
      A large number of tickets are given out to drivers using their devices while at stop lights.
      They have a neat way of spotting them. Look for someone waving an advertising sign that has no company name on it. Drivers universally ignore such people, and when the pull up at the light, the sign guy radios the cop halfway down the next block to pull them over.
      • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Saturday February 17, 2018 @12:43AM (#56140150)

        against the law to use a handheld device while stopped at a traffic light

        Because nature will conspire against you to change the light to green as soon as you start fiddling with some device. And everyone behind you starts blowing their horn. But if you are in a hurry, the lights all stay red.

        So I outsmart nature. When I'm in a hurry, I pick up my cell phone. Or something else that I could kill time with at a red light. So nature says, "Aha! I'm going to make this guy look like an idiot." And it turns all the light green for me.

        • Bicycle rider here, same thing happens if I do something to pass the time at a crosswalk - then the light actually changes right away, but if ready to cross ASAP I'm just staring at the light.

      • Brilliant law, just like getting people for DUI in a parked car. It encourages people do the illegal behavior while moving, as they are less likely to get caught.

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )

        Not to be pedantic.... (oh,who am I kidding?) but a steering wheel is technically a handheld device.

        Also, laptops aren't remotely handheld, but they are quite illegal to use while driving.

        That they even feel the need to make an explicit law about handheld devices to cut down on distracted driving suggests that they would be much better off, and kill a lot of birds with one stone, if they required that except as required to operate the vehicle in a safe and proper manner (ie, changing gears, activating

        • How in hell am I supposed to hold my newspaper with both hands on the steering wheel?!?
        • That they even feel the need to make an explicit law about handheld devices to cut down on distracted driving suggests that they would be much better off, and kill a lot of birds with one stone, if they required that except as required to operate the vehicle in a safe and proper manner (ie, changing gears, activating a turn signal, windshield wipers, etc), a driver must have both hands on the steering wheel at all times while the vehicle is not in park. Full stop.

          The problem with this proposal is that it's "fixing" the wrong problem. Distracted driving has absolutely nothing to do with where you hands are; it's a matter of where your mind is. Having both hands on the wheel and eyes forward while mentally focusing on work, or kids, or plans for the evening, etc., is far worse than taking a moment at a suitable time to adjust the radio, look up the next segment of the route on your GPS, or simply drive with one hand on the wheel. Prohibiting "physical distractions" su

      • by Strider- ( 39683 )

        I've watched the police catch people at the corner of Boundary and Canada way. One officer sitting upstairs in the Starbucks watching the road and the other ones just out of sight bellow.

        The issue with using your device while stopped at a red light is one of situational awareness. You come to a stop, place your foot firmly on the brake, and switch your focus to futzing with your device. When you shift your focus, you lose situational awareness. There light turns, the impatient guy behind you honks. Quick: w

    • I once had some people behind me get really damn angry when I shut my engine off during a traffic jam. I assumed I was breaking some law, but I never researched if it applied in my state. Might be a similar idea though.

      • The guy was being a jerk because he assumed traffic would be moving any moment and would have to wait the few seconds for you to start your car and move. But, since you were in a traffic jam, one he could obviously see, there would have been plenty of time for you to start your car by simply being observant of the cars in front of by looking through their windows to the cars ahead.

        These are the same people when you're at a red light and they keep creeping up on your bumper. Those extra few inches aren't

    • A few years ago, in the UK, the police gave a ticket to a woman who took a drink from a water bottle while stationary at a red traffic signal.

    • by dryeo ( 100693 )

      Not too long ago, stopped at an intersection with dedicated left turn lights, the guy besides me pulled into traffic when the person beside him started their left turn. Seen similar a few times and the only reason for no accident was that everyone was moving slow enough to stop. Still fucks up traffic and if they're so unaware that they can't tell the difference between a green light and a green left turn light, they're a danger on the road.

      • Best fun ever.
        Pull up first in the right lane of a 4-lane road that also has a left turn light full of folks.

        left red red
        ---- ------ ------
        car TRGT you

        If the guy in the left lane is dinking with his phone or gps system or his dink itself, as soon as the left turn lane flicks, try to go just as the cars on his left go. You don't have to floor it, just move up fartherllike most folks do after they've been at a red light for too long. Just do it at the right time.
        Watch what happens.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Thank you. I've been involved in two distracted driving accidents. One, very minor, was my fault. The other was more serious and happened while I was not moving, someone else's fault obviously. Neither one of them involved a phone in any way whatsoever.

      I'm sick and tired of people equating "distracted driving" with cell phone use because doing so demonizes one activity over all others when distracted driving predates cell phones by a wide margin. In fact, if you search newspaper archives from when cars

    • it's not "distracted driving" to check your email when there's no velocity and no where to go.

      And yet an incredibly large portion of rear-endings happen in exactly those situations. You're still distracted. You're still likely to cause an accident. The only difference is that you will more likely just screw up the traffic network in the city, get to late work, and spend hours working through insurance paperwork than kill someone (or then kill someone depending on how good the insurance company's customer service is).

      It's an email, it's a text. If people needed something now they would have called. T

    • People checking their email at red lights don't want to get honked if they don't respond fast enough to a green light.

      So this makes them more nervous, more reliant on their peripheral vision, and more likely to gun the car forward incorrectly if a dash of green light appears in their peripheral vision even it's coming for a different lane or if it's pointing in the wrong direction.

    • you can spend five minutes stopped at a light; it's not "distracted driving" to check your email when there's no velocity and no where to go.

      Speaking of no velocity, this scenario quickly turns into a bunch of people not paying attention after the light turns green because they're in denial about what "distracted" means.

      This is also why some states had to pass laws that prohibit the use of distraction devices even while stopped at a light.

  • Its only distracted when other people are doing it, because I'm watching them be distracted.

    --
    You did what? -- Anonymous

  • I drink Diet Pepsi while driving. I eat fast food while driving. I talk on the phone (with my headset) while driving. I give computer tech support, talking people through troubleshooting steps while on the phone, while driving. I glance at my GPS while driving. Sometimes I listen to the radio and sing along. The only "distracted driving" accident I've been in was when the guy behind me didn't realize that I was stopping at a yellow light and slammed into me from behind.

    I've been doing a lot of that st

    • by Gavrielkay ( 1819320 ) on Saturday February 17, 2018 @01:05AM (#56140246)
      Just because other people do other more or less stupid things while driving doesn't make using your phone any smarter. If you use a headset then at least you're keeping your eyes free to watch the road.

      But by now we've all been on the road the day everyone is dodging around someone who's weaving between lanes, or going half the speed limit - any when it's finally your turn to go around the car, sure enough the driver has a phone in their face. There are plenty of ways to die in this world, but if I get taken out by someone who thinks their email is more important than my life, I hope I can haunt them for eternity.
    • The only "distracted driving" accident I've been in was when the guy behind me didn't realize that I was stopping at a yellow light and slammed into me from behind.

      An overwhelming body of evidence says that if you're doing the things you described then you are significantly worse as a driver than you otherwise would be. Your reactions are slower than they otherwise would be. Your judgement is impaired. You do make mistakes.

      Now, maybe so far other drivers have been able to compensate for your mistakes, taking avoiding action to prevent an accident, or waiting patiently behind you when you were slow off the mark, or leaving extra space to accommodate your panic braking.

    • I've been doing a lot of that stuff - eating, drinking, singing - for FIFTY YEARS. I got my first cell phone in 1990, and I've been talking on the phone since then. I don't have a problem with "distractions".

      No, you have a problem with comparative analysis, chance, and the human toll of time.

      Talking on a phone is not even close to the same thing as the other 95% of society addicted to social media that requires considerably more interaction (and that headset isn't statistically helping you). Driving distractions include eating and drinking, which were proven factors long before cell phones.

      Your hearing, eyesight, and reflexes; I can assure you that you do NOT hold the same capabilities that you did FIFTY YEARS

  • I almost dropped my tablet and nearly sideswiped a bus.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I don't know about the rest of you , but I honestly cannot wait until autonomous cars are finally really here. I would rather have my commute time back to myself.Sure, I like driving, but time is money. could be watching youtube to learn something else instead, and what a great time to do it. 1hr to work and back home I don't get back.

    • There are many places you can live and work where the commute time is less than 20 mins. I have been doing it my entire life.
  • That's not true, I always kee

  • Is the most distracted driving I do.

  • by MDMurphy ( 208495 ) on Saturday February 17, 2018 @02:22AM (#56140444)

    Looking at your GPS: Bad
    Yelling at your fighting kids in the back seat: Good.

    What I can't stand about these surveys and studies is that they all seemed pre-ordained to get the results the researchers are looking for. I have not doubt that driving solo, the radio pre-set before you leave with no food or beverage will give you the maximum amount of attention to pay to the road. But the world doesn't operate like that. People have others in the car, hold hot coffee and change radio stations.

    When all these things are present, when is it bad? Is there no difference between going through a school zone at 8:30 and driving on a lightly traveled interstate?

    All discussions seem to be centered around the stupidest, least coordinated person driving through a congested street with kids jumping out from between parked cars. There's no allowance made for adjusting to the environment. There are those who argue you must have 2 hands on the steering wheel at all times. And yet, we don't outlaw one-armed drivers or manual transmissions. Does taking your hand off the wheel to shift while operating the clutch with your foot distract you from the steering and observing the road? The absolutists will probably argue that it does, and is less safe.

    How many kids can a parent have in the car at once? One? Two will eventually fight. And with the current laws they all have to be in the back seat that will trigger looking in mirrors ( rear view and special ones just for viewing the back seat ) or turning around. How about a study showing the impact of 1, 2 3 or 4 kids i the car with a parent? Not likely, because distraction by looking in the mirror when talking to your kid is being a "good parent" while looking at the radio to change the station is "bad driving".

    Every single study is just another attempt to wrap an option in statistics .

    • False equivalency. We have the option of not fucking around with electronics, but we don't have the option of not taking passengers somewhere.

      Also the effects are additive. You don't get a distracted or not distracted tick and making you an equal risk. Just because you have kids in the car doesn't mean it's okay to fuck around with electronics.

      • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

        > but we don't have the option of not taking passengers somewhere.

        Yes we do. Thats what pickup trucks are for.

    • Looking at your GPS: Bad
      Yelling at your fighting kids in the back seat: Good.

      In California:

      Looking at your GPS: Bad
      Fiddling with a paper map while doing 80 MPH down the freeway: No problem

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Don't make me stop this car!!!!

    • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

      > What I can't stand about these surveys and studies is that they all seemed pre-ordained to get the results the researchers are looking for

      Well said and I can't agree more. I took Psychology as a first year option in my CS degree course. It was mostly full of women that were doing liberal arts and social studies. These are the types of people doing all these kids of studies.

      As someone doing a logic/math related subject (CS), it was blindingly obvious that Psychologists routinely perform a giant hand-wav

    • How about a study showing the impact of 1, 2 3 or 4 kids i the car with a parent?

      For our oldest two it wasn't related to how many kids, but was the fact that legally they're supposed to be backwards facing. The kids hated it. And dealing with a screaming kid, who is backwards facing, is a lot more effort than one who is forwards facing. Flipping their safety seat, to forwards facing early, was always a big help.

    • by dddux ( 3656447 )
      When you're driving a car, you have to drive a car. Kids fighting or arguing is not your job. Your job is to look at the freaking road and try not to kill anyone. Comprende?
  • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Saturday February 17, 2018 @04:41AM (#56140796)

    The problem with a study that classifies things like "viewing GPS navigation data" is that it ignores the wide range of distraction that could cause.

    I view GPS navigation data. My GPS is mounted immediately above left of my steering wheel. It's closer to my view of the road than the instrument cluster. The last hire car I had showed the GPS instructions on the instrument cluster itself.

    That is a big contrast to some idiot fumbling around with the phone lying on his passenger car seat, or playing with the central console's touchscreen while screaming down the highway.

  • We need to be as excited about distracted driving as school shootings.

    A) Distracted driving kills far more people
    B) Individuals CAN immediately affect the safety of the world by doing the right thing.

    I think there are things we can do gun safety, too, but darn if we don't focus on the problems that are the most difficult, out of our control and least significant.

  • I have rented quite a few cars in the past two years. The info systems are very distracting. Sometimes doing very basic tasks can be distracting. For example, trying change the radio band or even changing the channel can require 3-5 button pushes or screen touches just to find the function I want.

    We need a standard interface.

  • I only get distracted when I run over a pedestrian or a cyclist. Those pests! /sarc People are generally driving like they're in a computer game these days. It is extremely bad and irresponsible. I can see it happen daily. The ego of the drivers is sky high. Self-driving cars without any ego cannot come too soon.
  • Let me know if my comparison is inane...

    If someone has three beers and jumps in their car, they could:

    1. 1. Be arrested, sit in jail overnight, or all weekend
    2. 2. Have their license taken on site, with no hearing
    3. 3. Have to plead guilty, or hire an attorney that winds up costing about $10,000USD.
    4. 4. Have their license suspended for a year or more

    If someone is texting and driving, which I would maintain is even more distracting than having three beers in their system:

    1. 1. They may have someone honk their horn at th

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