Regardless of how quickly, accurately, or seemingly effortlessly you can text, texting while driving is still dangerous. Just how dangerous it can be was explored by a Missouri college student who tested distracted driving using the Columbia Police Department’s driving stimulator.
Student Chip Lange, a senior at Westminster College, had the department’s permission to use its training facility as well as 33 participants willing to test how well they could drive while texting. Not well at all, according to the results, which showed drivers’ physiological responses were drastically reduced by distraction.
The distractions at play while texting are: visual, with drivers taking their eyes off the road; manual, with drivers taking at least one hand off the wheel; and cognitive, with drivers taking their mind off the task in front of them. This degree of distraction puts those who text and drive at serious risk for motor vehicle accidents.
The behavioral distraction that results from texting delays reaction times because the neural and muscular reactions are slowed down due to their divided attention. Importantly, drivers suffer from a delayed reaction when it comes to moving their foot off the gas pedal and onto the brake.
Dangers of Distracted Driving
The University of Utah reports that cell phone use, either hand-held or hands-free, slows down reaction time as much as a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent, or the legal limit.
Startling statistics on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Distration.gov website state that 5,474 people were killed and an estimated 448,000 injured in crashes involving distracted driving in 2009. Twenty percent of all injury crashes in 2009 were caused by distracted driving.
A cell phone was the distraction in 18 percent of the fatal crashes caused by distracted driving. Drivers under 20 years of age are most prone to distracted driving, with 16 percent of the fatal injuries in that age group caused by distractions.
Source: Study: Skill at texting doesn’t reduce danger