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Study: Texting While Driving Greatly Increases Risk of Crash

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This puts texting while driving in a pretty special category of driver distraction. Compared with this data, driving while talking on the phone or with a .08 blood-alcohol level seem downright safe. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has found that both of those activities make the risk of a crash just four times greater.

Now for a couple of caveats: The study rigged video cameras into the cabs of long-haul truck drivers for 18 months. A big-rig truck takes longer to stop and is harder to maneuver than a typical car. Truck drivers also spend much more time on the road, simply giving them more opportunity to roll the safety dice.

Having said that, the VTTI study found no significant difference in texting behavior between the truckers and average drivers. Texters who end up in accidents typically spend five seconds looking at their devices — enough time to cover 100 yards on the highway.

Previous laboratory studies have found that texting increases the risk of a crash by eight times, so while this new real-world study isn’t surprising in its result, the severity of the risk is somewhat shocking. Only 14 states ban texting while driving.

Car & Driver recently conducted its own test to show how two different people react while driving and texting, and while driving under the influence of alcohol.

Next up, VTTI will study texting while driving in light-duty vehicles, and will look specifically at teenagers. That study will be out later this year, but early results from the car drivers are similar to those of the truck drivers.

In Study, Texting Lifts Crash Risk by Large Margin (The New York Times)

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