A new study by Texas A&M University’s Texas Transportation Institute confirms a growing consensus regarding a major problem on our nation’s roads: texting while driving.
The study’s novel approach employed drivers in real-world rather than simulated conditions. Forty-two drivers, ages 16 to 54, drove an 11-mile test track while either sending or receiving text messages. Researchers measured their reaction times to flashing signals. The drivers then drove the track again with their focus only on the road.
In short, the two situations produced starkly different outcomes. Drivers not texting took two seconds to respond to a flashing light, but texting drivers needed three to four seconds to respond; twice the reaction time. Even worse, texting drivers were 11 times more likely to completely miss a flashing light.
“Even though we had participants drive at 30 miles an hour with very wide lanes on the test track, we still had many close calls,” said researcher Christine Yager in an article for TMCnet.com. “We had participants strike barrels and it is very scary to think that this is happening on our public roadways.”
Massachusetts Program Takes Message to Students
According to Distraction.com, traffic fatalities linked to driver distraction increased from 10 percent in 2005 to 16 percent in 2009, the latest figures available.
To discourage distracted driving among teenage drivers in Massachusetts, Hampden County District Attorney Mark Mastroianni developed a program that shows the human toll distracted driving takes on real people and their families. As part of the program, father Jim Butcher shares his story of losing his daughter to a distracted driving accident with other teens. Due to its success in Palmer, Massachusetts, the program was extended from prom season to year-round use.
Source: TMCnet.com, “New Study Reveals Texting While Driving Is Highly Dangerous, Even More So Than Previously Thought,” Jamie Epstein, Oct. 6, 2011.