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Times journalist tries text messaging in the simulator  (Source: Times)
Drivers who text while driving are more dangerous than those under the influence of alcohol or marijuana

A British study done by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) for the British Royal Automobile Club Foundation indicates it's more dangerous to send text messages while driving even when compared to drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The study showed that drivers who text and drive become more than one third slower than if they were coherent and not texting – this was compared to a person at the DUI limit or under the influence of marijuana.  Text messaging lowered reaction time by 35 percent, while people high on marijuana slowed down 21 percent and those who were drunk slowed down by 12 percent.

On top of those findings, people reading or writing text messages drifted out of their lane more than people who were focused solely on driving.  Texters also had a more difficult maintaining a safe distance from cars around them.

Around half of British drivers between the ages of 18 and 24 text while driving, the RAC Foundation said.  

"When texting, drivers are distracted by taking their hand off the wheel to use their phone, by trying to read small text on the phone display and by thinking about how to write their message," said Dr. Nick Reed, TRL senior human factors researcher.  "This combination of factors resulted in the impairments to reaction time and vehicle control that place the driver at a greater risk than having consumed alcohol to the legal limit for driving."

The British Department for Transport, in response to the increased danger of texting while driving, has increased the ticket for using a cell phone while driving.  In addition to increasing the fine, the agency also has launched an ad campaign to inform drivers how dangerous it is to text and drive.

Most states in the United States do not have laws banning text messaging while driving, but drivers can often times be pulled over if they are seen driving recklessly while using their mobile phone.  The state of California has banned talking on a cell phone without the use of a hands-free device, and a ban on text messaging while driving will likely go into effect in 2009.

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RE: I'm Shocked! Shocked!
By GaryJohnson on 9/19/2008 7:51:41 AM , Rating: 3
I don't understand why 'texting' is put into some special category here. Isn't it reasonable to say that engaging in any other activity while driving is going to reduce your ability to drive?

Why can't we suffice with 'driving recklessly'; why do we need to attach a cause to it?

RE: I'm Shocked! Shocked!
By Brandon Hill on 9/19/2008 8:04:11 AM , Rating: 4
Yes, but some activities take your eyes away from the road more (or impair you more). I couldn't reasonably drive and text at the same time safely, but I could reasonably drive and drink a soda or drive and snack on a candy bar.

RE: I'm Shocked! Shocked!
By retepallen on 9/19/2008 9:38:23 AM , Rating: 3
I think common sense does apply, but in the world we live in most people dont have any common sense and it seems that by spending money on a study, the authorities can reach a wider audience with their message.

If by doing that, the study saves a life... is it worth it?
I would say 100% yes.

RE: I'm Shocked! Shocked!
By Souka on 9/19/2008 3:33:00 PM , Rating: 4
OK, so if you live in a state that doesn't have a law banning texting while driving then:

1. Get sh@tfaced drunk or high
2. Drive a car
3. When you get arrested, sue the state using the study showing that texting is more dangerous, but not illegal.
4. Live the life of luxury on the money from the lawsuit


RE: I'm Shocked! Shocked!
By GaryJohnson on 9/19/2008 3:57:39 PM , Rating: 2
That's a great point. The study shows texting is more dangerous that drinking and driving, but it also shows drinking and driving is less dangerous than texting.

What I don't see in the study is any clear figure describing how much more likely a texting person is to be in an accident than a person who isn't.

RE: I'm Shocked! Shocked!
By clovell on 9/19/2008 5:00:40 PM , Rating: 2
No, actually it doesn't really show anything. Statistics that don't take variation into account aren't to be trusted.

RE: I'm Shocked! Shocked!
By Samus on 9/20/2008 6:24:16 AM , Rating: 3
That's why there is a margin of error in every statistic study ;)

RE: I'm Shocked! Shocked!
By Dark Legion on 9/20/2008 1:58:14 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, it shows that texting while driving is more dangerous than drinking and driving at the DUI limit, which is not very much, mind you. How many people that are going to drink and drive actually drive at the DUI limit? Not a majority for sure, though texting is probably still more dangerous up to a certain point over the DUI limit.

RE: I'm Shocked! Shocked!
By GaryJohnson on 9/20/2008 3:20:00 AM , Rating: 2
I could reasonably drive and drink a soda or drive and snack on a candy bar

But maybe someone can't. What that person is doing wrong isn't eating while driving because then you would be wrong to eat while driving too, even though you say you can do it safely. What they're doing wrong is putting other peoples health, property in danger or impeding traffic.

RE: I'm Shocked! Shocked!
By gochichi on 9/21/2008 11:57:24 PM , Rating: 2
Well well well... if I drop my cellphone while driving and texting it's like "oh well, it was a bad idea anyhow". If you're drinking piping hot coffee and you spill the stuff in your precious new car with light colored seats you're bound to be headed straight for an accident not to mention that your body will demand that you pay attention to something that is burning hot. If you're wearing a nice suit and are headed to a special occassion, if a cellphone falls on your shirt it doesn't matter, if lettuce and ketchup fall on your shirt you're gonna freak out.

It's certainly not clear cut. It really depends on how familiar you are with your phone and those features and on how familiar you are with your car. Most car accidents happen in the first 3 months of ownership. We drive like a bunch of jerks, that's why our speed limits are nice and slow... but it's a vicious circle... the slower the limit, the more bored we get, and the more stupid stuff we do.

You know, just the other day I did something way more stupid than texting, but you'd never bust my chops for it. I was driving a car I had never driven before (so it wasn't an automatic activity) and I forgot to adjust the mirrors, it was dark out and I was already on the highway. The controls were nowhere to be found... I finally found them but not before driving like a total jerk for while.

You can mix automatic activities fairly well, if texting is automatic for you then good. Texting cannot become an emergency, so I like that aspect of it. The same cannot be said about driving with kids, with dark drinks (specially hot ones), or arguing with your spouse.

Overall I am a super safe driver, safer than most... I never make sudden turns when someone says "Oh turn here!"... such a stupid thing to do, yet most people turn immediatly such that their tires squeal. I never shove my car across lanes last minute if I miss an intersection. And I also text at times. I'm not saying it's smart... but I am saying that "it depends".

I think stopping drunk driving is quite different. You DO stop your sober self from texting or even from a phone call (at least I do) if a driving situation comes up. Every single judgement call is better when you're sober, so stay sober.

RE: I'm Shocked! Shocked!
By Don Tonino on 9/19/2008 8:08:14 AM , Rating: 2
The most that would be needed to, would be a rule requiring the driver to keep both hands on the weel at all times, except for when one hand is needed to do something actually related with the driving. That way, any behaviour that could be harmful would be covered without having to get deep into detail of what behaviour is more or less dangerous.

RE: I'm Shocked! Shocked!
By Digimonkey on 9/19/2008 8:25:11 AM , Rating: 2
That's a ridiculous notion. That means you couldn't even change the radio station while driving.

RE: I'm Shocked! Shocked!
By Don Tonino on 9/19/08, Rating: -1
RE: I'm Shocked! Shocked!
By Brandon Hill on 9/19/2008 8:59:42 AM , Rating: 3
I have radio controls on my steering wheel, but the controls for my seat warmers, auto climate control, A/C vents, and every thing else -- "DUH-DU-DUUUUHHHH" -- are on the center stack.

And what about the power windows? That requires you to take your hands off the wheel too.

All I'm saying is that the above actions are minor distractions while driving. However, texting while driving is just downright idiotic.

RE: I'm Shocked! Shocked!
By Sazar on 9/19/2008 1:16:54 PM , Rating: 1
You obviously need to get a newer car with voice-regonition and voice-activated gadgets.

I never have to leave the steering wheel except... when shifting gears or... when texting :o

j/k ;)

RE: I'm Shocked! Shocked!
By Myrandex on 9/19/2008 9:05:22 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not about to go purchase a new car just for buttons on the wheel...

RE: I'm Shocked! Shocked!
By Enoch2001 on 9/19/2008 9:08:30 AM , Rating: 3
Ever heard of controls on the wheel? they are getting quite common these days...

Ever heard of not standard in all vehicles? Drop the sarcasm - your proposition is idiotic.

RE: I'm Shocked! Shocked!
By therealnickdanger on 9/19/2008 9:17:14 AM , Rating: 2
What would you suggest? As the posted above stated - many vehicles come with steering wheel controls (should be standard, I think). People seem content to turn a blind eye to traffic crashes, as if there is no way to stop them. The World Health Organization released a report indicating that traffic deaths are one of the biggest killers that we know of are expected to increase by 80% by 2020 as more developing nations get cars. 1.2 million people per year die in situations that could be entirely prevented with proper training and improved safety technology.

RE: I'm Shocked! Shocked!
By rudolphna on 9/19/2008 11:25:17 AM , Rating: 2
not to mention less idiots who dont know how to drive a car, being locked up.

RE: I'm Shocked! Shocked!
By foolsgambit11 on 9/20/2008 10:49:25 AM , Rating: 2
I want a study to find out how dangerous smoking while driving is. It's got to be bad - long periods of time with only one hand available for steering, worrying about where you're ashing, starting fires, burning legs, &c.

RE: I'm Shocked! Shocked!
By psychobriggsy on 9/19/2008 9:57:26 AM , Rating: 2
This makes it easier to justify legislation banning certain activities when driving.

With "driving recklessly" you have to prove that the person was driving recklessly, which may be hard. However if you can prove the driver was using their mobile phone at the time (eyewitness accounts, phone records, etc) then the case becomes far easier to prove, especially with this study being available to justify that it is very reckless, far worse than drunk driving.

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