As more states consider outright bans of talking on cell phones or texting while driving, a new study indicates sending and receiving text messages while driving dramatically increases the likelihood of an accident.
"You should never do this," Virginia Institute Director Tom Dingus said. "It should be illegal."
The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute studied truck drivers for 18 months, recording driving habits of 100 long-haul truck drivers. The long-term study discovered the habits of truck drivers is very similar to regular everyday drivers, Specifically, the study looked into the amount of time drivers spend reading or writing text messages -- immediately prior to an accident, participants spent almost five seconds looking at their cell phone. The results of the study showed that drivers who texted were 23 times more likely to get into an accident than drivers who didn’t text.
The study will eventually be published, but is now undergoing peer review.
People driving a regular car are 1-2 times as likely to get into a motor accident while using their phone and driving. Other studies indicate the use of Bluetooth headsets -- allowing for "hands-free" driving -- doesn't reduce the risk of accidents, with research indicating it's the distraction of having a conversation on the phone, not holding it, that is dangerous.
Fourteen states across the United States have banned texting while driving, with a dozen or so other states looking into similar laws. Texting is still such a new phenomenon that lawmakers are now just beginning to catch up to the technology. A soon-to-be published survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicates 95 percent of drivers believe texting is unacceptable, though 21 percent admit to texting while driving.
However, there are some states that require additional information research to be done before banning texting, while lawmakers in other states have rejected creating such legislation. Any lawmakers looking for more information likely won't have to wait long, as there are a handful of universities and research groups working on additional studies related to texting and driving.