Study: Texting while driving doubles reaction times

Consumer Reports News: October 06, 2011 04:08 PM

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There are plenty of results from lab tests of drivers in car simulators that highlight the dangers of texting while driving. But researchers at Texas A&M University's Transportation Institute put rubber to the road to show exactly how risky is distracted driving.

Forty-two drivers, from 16- to 54-years old, were placed behind the wheel of a car and drove around a closed track of just about 11 miles in length. The researchers monitored how long it took drivers to react to a flashing light while driving normally and while attempting to text and read a message on a mobile phone.

The researchers say the average, normal reaction times were about a second or two. But put a cell phone in the driver's hand and reaction times jump to three or four seconds. What's more, texting drivers in TTI's small study were 11 times more likely to miss the flashing warning lights completely. Researchers also note the distracted drivers had much more difficulty staying in the straight driving lane as well as maintaining consistent speeds.

Also interesting, say the researchers, is that the very small study only tested drivers on a closed, straight course with no hills or other hazards other than construction zone barrels. Researchers wrote in the 43-page report, An Investigation of the Effects of Reading and Writing Text-Based Messages While Driving: is frightening to think of how much more poorly our participants may have performed if the driving conditions were more consistent with everyday, routine driving.

For safety tips, see How to minimize distracted driving and our special Guide to distracted driving & teen safety.

New Study says Texting Doubles a Driver’s Reaction Time [Texas Transportation Institute]
An Investigation of the Effects of Reading and Writing Text-Based Messages While Driving (PDF) [Texas Transportation Institute]
Texting while driving dangerous, study confirms: How dangerous? [CBS News]

Paul Eng

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