Sending text messages at the wheel can be more dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol, according to a new survey of young drivers.
The reactions of 17-24 year-olds who wrote, read and ignored text messages whilst driving deteriorated by 35% in tests carried out for the RAC Foundation.
In earlier studies, drinking alcohol at the legal limit made reactions just 12% slower, while smoking cannabis caused a 21% drop in response times.
Poor lane discipline
The latest tests, which were conducted in a driving simulator at the TRL transport research laboratory, found lane discipline was also much worse when texting.
Steering control took a 91% hit when distracted by text messages, compared with just 31% when driving under the influence of cannabis.
TRL also found texting had a greater effect on lane positioning than legal amounts of alcohol or speaking on a handheld phone.
It said texting had the second greatest impact on reaction times – behind using a handheld phone – and that drivers’ abilities to maintain a safe distance from the car in front also fell.
Dr Nick Reed, senior human factors researcher at TRL, said: ‘This research demonstrates how dangerous it is to drive and text.
‘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.
‘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.’
RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister said: ‘The participants in this study were almost unanimous in their view that drink-driving was the most dangerous action on the road.
‘Yet this research clearly shows that a motorist who is texting is significantly more impaired than a motorist at the legal limit for alcohol.
‘We need to ensure that text devotees understand that texting is one of the most hazardous things that can be done while in charge of a motor car.’
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