July 29, 2009

Texting Increases Risk Of Auto Accidents

According to a report released on Tuesday, text messaging while driving increases the risk of an auto accident even more than talking on a cell phone while driving.

The study, which was conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), found that texting while driving increased the risk of an accident by more than 23 times.

"Text messaging on a cell phone was associated with the highest risk of all cell phone related tasks," says the VTTI. "The tasks that draw the driver's eyes away from the forward roadway were those with the highest risk."

The VTTI also found that text messaging leads drivers eyes to be off the road an average of 4.6 seconds over a six-second interval. 

"This equates to a driver traveling the length of a football field (100 yards) at 55 miles per hour without looking at the roadway," the study said.

"Talking/listening to a cell phone allowed drivers to maintain eyes on the road and were not associated with an increased safety risk to nearly the same degree," it said.

According to the study, the risk of a crash, or near crash, for a driver in a light car while dialing on a cell phone was 2.8 times higher than a normal non-distracted driver.

The chance of an auto-accident was 1.3 times higher when talking on a cell phone, and 1.4 times higher when reaching for an object in the vehicle.

The risk of an accident in heavy vehicles was 5.9 times higher when dialing a phone, 6.7 times higher when reaching for something, but only 1.0 times higher when talking on a cell phone.

Accident risk was 23.2 times higher for truck drivers when texting.

To gather data for the report, the VTTI used cameras and instrumentation to observe truck drivers, and light vehicle drivers over more than six million miles.

"These results show conclusively that a real key to significantly improving safety is keeping your eyes on the road," the VTTI said in the report.

The study is also requesting that text messaging be banned in moving vehicles for drivers.

Currently, texting while driving is banned in 14 US states.

According to information reported by The New York Times, the federal agency commissioned to keep roadways safe concealed research seven years ago that explained the dangers of using cell phones while driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did so because it feared the study would anger members of Congress.

The study, conducted by the NHTSA in 2002, found that 955 people were killed during 240,000 traffic accidents caused by driving and using a cell phone.


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