A small study of young drivers is adding to the evidence that driving-while-texting significantly increases the likelihood of ending up in a crash, NPR's Howard Berkes tells us.
He just filed this report for NPR News:
It's not just general distraction that makes texting and driving dangerous, according to the study by human factors researchers at the University of Utah. They found that texting is far more distracting than cell phone conversations.
Receiving, composing and sending text messages consumed the drivers' attention. In driving simulators, the 40 young adults in the study often drove closer to the simulated vehicles in front of them while texting and took 30% longer to react and brake. That's three times the reaction time when the subjects simply talked on a cell phone.
According to the study, which is online here, there were seven "collisions" during the driving simulations. Six of them happened while the subjects were texting.
The researchers conclude that:
Activities such as text messaging that require task switching and are often performed for extended periods severely impair driving performance. Tasks such as talking on a cell phone that require shared attention combined with even higher exposure have similar effects on driving performance, albeit potentially a lower crash risk.
"Distracted driving," most notably driving-while-texting, has been getting plenty of attention this year. A Virginia Tech study concluded it's the riskiest thing drivers routinely do. A very graphic public service ad from Britain makes the point quite chillingly.
Please, put the phone down while you're behind the wheel.