December 22, 2009

New Study Shows The Dangers Of Texting While Driving

A new study released this week shows that text-messaging drivers are six times more likely to get into an accident than drivers who do not text, Reuters reported.

The study used simulator vehicles and identical traffic scenarios to show that the risk of texting behind the wheel appeared to be significantly higher than talking on a cell phone while driving.

Researcher Frank Drews of the University of Utah explained that when people talk on the phone while driving they are four times more likely to get into an accident.

However, he said the new study highlights another increase of risk.

Drews said the study is the first to examine accidents rather than "close calls" while driving, as previous studies have shown the dangers of text messaging while driving, but not in relation to wreck or fender benders.

Researchers evaluated the driving performance of 20 pairs of self-described experienced text messagers using their own cell phones. The drivers, aged 19 to 23, were instructed to plan an evening outing in which they had to arrange a number of activities.

Drews said the subjects' task was to first engage in single-task driving in the simulator to assess baseline performance. But in the next step, the researchers had them text message with friends who were in a different room while they were driving.

Throughout the study, published in the journal Human Factors, there were seven collisions, each caused by different drivers. Six of the crashes (86 percent) happened while drivers were text messaging.

However, only one accident occurred while the participant was simply driving.

Text messaging drivers were found to react more slowly to vehicles' brake lights ahead of them and were much more likely to drift into other lanes while texting, the study showed.

Drews said their response time to the onset of this braking light was delayed by about 20 percent, which he called a "significant delay in reaction time".

Meanwhile, some U.S. lawmakers have started a push for all 50 states to outlaw texting behind the wheel, citing previous studies on the dangers of texting and driving.

There were more than 5,800 distracted driving deaths and 515,000 injuries in 2008, according to figures released this year by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


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