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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 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.

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