Drivers Who Text Six Times More Likely To Crash

Texting while driving slows reaction time

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Motorists who write text messages while driving are six times more likely to crash than those who don’t text while driving, according to a new study by University of Utah psychologists.

Researchers Frank Drews and colleagues found evidence that attention patterns differ for drivers who text versus those who talk on a cell phone. For those who talk on a cell phone, researchers say, "drivers apparently attempt to divide attention between a phone conversation and driving, adjusting the processing priority of the two activities depending on task demands."


Texting requires drivers to switch their attention from one task to the other. When attention switching happens as drivers write, read, or receive a text, their overall reaction times are substantially slower than when they are talking on a cell phone. The type of texting makes a difference, with reading messages affecting braking time more than writing them.

To find why and how much drivers are impaired during texting, the Utah researchers selected 20 men and 20 women between the ages of 19 and 23 both in single task (straight driving) and a dual task (driving and texting) in a high fidelity simulator. The participants were experienced texters with an average of nearly 5 years driving experience, they received and sent messages while the researchers monitored their brake onset time, following distance, lane maintenance, and collisions.

The crash risk due to texting is substantial. One explanation is drivers who text tend to decrease their minimum following distance and also experience delayed reaction time. It took drivers in the study an average of 30 percent longer to react when they were texting and 9 percent longer when they talked on a cell phone, compared with driving only.

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Drivers Who Text Six Times More Likely To Crash
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  • Max

    Gee, imagine that. If I take my eyes off the road, I’m more likely to run into something? Driving is a VISUAL exercise. If I close my eyes every 30 seconds for 5 seconds while driving, I bet that would increase my accident rate, also! I hope this wasn’t a government funded research study to find out what a 5 year old could tell you. Oh, wait. U of U is a state university, so yes, this was funded by tax dollars. Common sense has been replaced by “science”.

  • http://www.jazz-trio.com Jazz Trio

    Maybe future studies could include driving whilst tying shoe laces, driving with your eyes shut, driving the wrong way down the freeway… I mean, have any of these really been thoroughly tested?

  • Marv

    Apparently some don’t get it. Sound science-based social research is critically important for laws to be implemented to stimulate behavioral change. To poo-poo the results of sound research shows ignorance and shallow thinking. Who better to support basic research than impartial government institutions. Here’s to more sound research on texting while driving or mobile phone use while driving to quantify the obvious so politicians will act.

  • Guest

    Everyone agrees that texting behind the wheel has become quite common. Everyone agrees that this is not a safe activity combination. However, these artificial studies need to be replaced by real life studies.

    For example, in medicine doctors have been very mislead by looking at the wrong data, rather than the actual evidence that matters. For example, doctors who are interested in reversing strokes might be excited with a study that showed that 90% of clots were dissolved within two hours with a new drug. But the real data might show that people who took the drug ended up with more deaths and more permanent neurological deficits. The artificial endpoint of dissolved clots is not the endpoint that MATTERS.

    Why is meaningful data so needed for driving? Because the numbers of people talking on cell phones and texting has skyrocketed over the past decade, but the numbers of fatalities in automobile accidents has plummeted (decreased by about half) during this same timeframe. It seems unlikely that cell phones have made a massive contribution to increased auto accident fatalities at the same time that auto fatalities have been plummeting at an unprecedented rate.

    The author states, “They received and sent messages while the researchers monitored their brake onset time, following distance, lane maintenance, and collisions.” One missing point here, were the persons afraid of death or severe injury if they made a mistake in the simulator? No. Did the subjects have the option to slow down and text only when they had a long straight road with no cars in front of them? Of course not. So these studies bear almost no relation to real life experience. If I watch a teenager play a wargame on an X-box, he will run into a gunfight, even at the risk of death. But he has a thousand lives in the game, so this does not show that soldiers onn the battlefield will behave in the same way.

    People are talking on cell phones and texting over large percentages of their time behind the wheel. Just because the activity is happening during an accident, it does not mean that it caused it. For example, if I am breathing in (which we all do 50% of the time) during an automobile accident that does not mean that the accident was caused by inhalation. Thus, since people are talking on cell phones while driving, it is absolutely certain that many accidents will happen while a person is speaking on a cell phone. Maybe, just maybe, the phone call did not make any significant contribution to the accident.

    The only way to get real data that really matters is to anonymously track cell phone use and accident rates in real life. Then the data will need to see what the increased rate of accidents is in real life. Based on the rapid decrease in auto accident deaths during the very time of the rapid emergence of cell phone usage, one might suspect that the actual risk is much less than these studies tend to indicate.

    No one should forget the tendency for scientists to design studies that will exaggerate their results. They sometimes even fudge the data, as we recently discovered the gross data fudging by leading environmental scientists in an attempt to promote theories of global warming (and increase funding for their research and schools). Remember, scientists need to produce big results that will excite the powers that control funding of future studies.

  • Guest

    As per all the comments we all know the risks, so why do we still do it. As a driver Training cosultant allow me to give my opinion as i get asked alot what the difference between using your phone and using your radio for example.

    1, in the UK 9 people die every day driving for work purposes, it is now the most dangerous work activity.
    2, uk police and vehicle rocovery drivers are told to look at for the phone as a high priority.

    3, Stats show that using a mobile whilst driving is worse the driving at the UK drink driving limit.

    4, Under the health and safety if an employee causes death by dangerous driving you as a manager or director could be charged with corporate manslaughter.

    5, if you phone a driver and the driver crashes you are liable to be charged as well as the driver this has happened to a lorry driver here in the uk.

    In my opinion its down to attitude we all believe we a great drivers however there seems to be a massive gap between how good we think we are and are actual skill level. (research done at cranfield uni).

    Here in the UK we have a great white christmas, unfortunatly my opinion seems to be correct when watching other driver’s attemp to drive in these conditions.

    As for using a phone its not just split concentration its down to how we comunicate to each other, most comunication is donw though body language and eye contact, the words them selves are a very small part.

    Steve Faulkner


  • http://www.writingconsultation.com Sarah

    Just like not eating while driving, not answering calls while driving and many other things, people know that sending tweets on the phone while driving is certainly going to increase the chances of accident. After all, they are dividing their focus and multitasks behind the wheels.

  • Guest

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  • Kate

    Allstate has a ton of scary facts about the dangers of texting and driving at http://allstateteendriver.com

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