Drivers Who Text Six Times More Likely To Crash
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.