Safe Texting While Driving Not Possible, Studies Find

Safe Texting While Driving Not Possible, Studies FindSafe texting when driving is not possible, according to a two emerging studies. Not surprising, distracted driving has been an issue of harsh contention in recent years with related accidents and deaths on the rise. The studies were presented at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Boston, Massachusetts.

The studies also found that the mere thought of texting on a mobile device while driving might be enough to cause a crash in teenagers, said WebMD. As a matter-of-fact, the studies suggest that teenage drivers who text with their device in any position and teens who just think about texting, are likelier to be involved in a crash.

“We know it is important to prevent young drivers from taking their hands off the wheel and eyes off the road to use a cell phone,” said researcher Jennifer M. Whitehill, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Washington, wrote WebMD. “This study suggests that thinking about future cell phone calls and messages may be an additional source of distraction that could contribute to crashes,” Whitehill added.

A number of studies have revealed that texting or using a cell phone when driving increases risks for motor vehicle accidents, which has prompted bans on the practices in many states. But some argue that the bans actually increase dangers because drivers are more focused on concealing their phones, said WebMD.

The first study reviewed if the cell phone’s position impacted teenage drivers’ performance when texting using a driving simulator. The teen drivers—22 in all—drove the simulator under three conditions: With no cell phone, texting while hiding the phone, and texting with the phone in their preferred position, explained WebMD. The study revealed that teens who texted when driving were about eight times likelier to drift between lanes and were twice as likely to become involved in a near crash with other cars and pedestrians, no matter where the phone was kept, said WebMD. The study found that teens who text and drive experience a four-fold increase in driving mistakes and are typically not even aware of the potentially dangerous mistakes they are making.

“These data demonstrate that there is no ‘safe’ or ‘better’ position that makes texting less dangerous,” Glade Inhofe, a high school student who helped conduct the study, said, according to WebMD.

The second study reviewed if thought or anticipation of cell use affected crash risks in young drivers, surveying 384 undergraduate students at the University of Washington about cell use and crash history. The students completed a Cell Phone Overuse Scale (CPOS), which measured four aspects of potentially problematic or compulsive cell phone use, said WebMD. Aspects included frequent anticipation of calls or messages, cell use interfering with normal activities and relationships, strong emotional reaction to the phone, and recognizing “problem cell phone use,” WebMD explained.

Each one one-point CPOS increase was linked to a 1% increase in the number of prior crashes in the teen drivers, noted WebMD. Specifically, teen drivers who often anticipated a call or text or experienced an emotional response to their phone were likelier to be involved in a car crash.

We also recently wrote that federal safety regulators are urging states to adopt near-total bans on the use of cell phones while driving. The unanimous recommendation of the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) also applies to the use of hands-free devices, which many drivers mistakenly believe are safer. The proposal followed several serious or deadly accidents that were blamed on drivers’ use of cell phones

Recent research also revealed that simply listening to someone speak on the other end of a cell phone reduces, by 37%, the amount of brain activity associated with driving, compared to driving alone. Other research conducted revealed that making cell phones hands-free or voice-activated is not sufficient in eliminating distraction to drivers.

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