A new study indicates that texting while driving is actually more dangerous than we actually thought.
The study shows that reading or writing a text message while driving can more than double a driver’s reaction time, according to the study that was conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute.
“Our findings suggest that response times are even slower than what we originally thought,” said Christine Yager, a TTI researcher, who managed the study. “Texting while driving basically doubles a driver’s reaction time and makes the driver less able to respond to sudden roadway dangers, if a vehicle were to make a sudden stop in front of them or if a child was to run across the road.”
For a driver who is only driving, reaction time is one to two seconds (no texting involved), for those drivers who were texting, their reaction time was three to four seconds. There was very little difference in response times between a driver composing a message and reading one.
The results of the study also found that texting impaired the driver’s ability to maintain proper lane position and constant speed.
The study consisted of 42 drivers between the age of 16 and 54 on a test-track driving course. Each vehicle in the study was equipped with a flashing light and a monitoring system.
“If you’re on a freeway where the speed limit is 60 in rush hour and a vehicle suddenly stops in front of you, that’s not enough time to react if your eyes are glanced down at your phone,” Yager said.
Drivers in the study were more than 11 times more likely to miss the flashing light altogether when they were texting.
This is the first published study in the United States to investigate texting while driving in actual vehicles rather than in simulators.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 5,500 people died in 2009 and half a million were injured in accidents involving a distracted driver.
“If you look down to text for just a few seconds at 55 miles per hour, your car travels the length of a football field while you’re not looking at the road,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement responding to the study. “Texting and talking on the phone while driving can be deadly, and drivers have a responsibility to put away these distracting devices every time they get behind the wheel.”
The study itself consisted of participants on a closed driving course three times without sending or receiving text messages, while writing a story and then reading a message sent to their mobile device.
The participants in the study were recruited through word of mouth from a database of past research participants and were paid $40. Approximately two-thirds of the participants used their own mobile devices, which were touch screen phones, and the other used a raised QWERTY keypad. The institute which performed the study is a part of Texas A&M University.
The researchers are not indicating what laws should be put in place; they just wanted to provide objective research in order to make well-informed decisions.
Most drivers overestimate their ability on the road and capacity of multitasking skills.
Jonathan Adkins, a spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association, said the study bolsters the group’s push for a texting ban in every state.
“Texting while driving is dangerous and drivers really don’t have any business texting while driving, no text is that important,” Adkins said.
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Source: Washington Post