Distracted Driving Research

Distracted Driving ResearchEver since text messaging became popular, researchers have been studying the effect of texting on driver safety. The results of some of that research have begun to appear, and the results are not encouraging. A study conducted by researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute recently concluded that truckers who were sending texts while driving were 23 times more likely to have a crash or a close call than drivers without distractions.

By contrast, using a cell phone represented no increased risk for truckers. For non-professional drivers, the risk of having an accident or near miss while on the phone was increased by 130%. However, dialing while driving represented most of the risk of using a cell phone while driving. Perhaps scariest of all was Virginia Tech’s finding that texting distracted drivers’ attention from the road for nearly five seconds, on average. That is enough time for a car travelling 55 miles per hour to go the length of a football field.

Distracted Driving Studies

A study released in December 2007 by researchers at Clemson University found that people who texted or used an iPod while driving crossed lanes 10% more frequently than non-distracted drivers. According to Paul Green, a researcher from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, “From the science so far, it's very clearly a problem. We don't have exact statistics, yet we have enough information to say that texting shouldn't be permitted while driving."

According to Nielsen, teenagers in the United States send or receive nearly 3,000 texts a month. A study by Seventeen magazine and AAA revealed that 61% of teens admit engaging in risky driving habits. Of these, 46% confess to texting while they drive. The problem is, although teenagers may be aware that their behavior is potentially dangerous, it can be hard to make them fully understand the implications of their actions.

To try to break through to teenagers, a British police department created a video showing a teenage girl taking her attention away from driving long enough to send a text message and cause a terrible accident. The video explicitly shows the aftermath of the crash and is very disturbing for most viewers. The idea is not new to teens from the United States; generations of American high school students have been forced to sit through gruesome depictions of crashes caused by careless or drunken driving.

The question, however, is whether this type of thing actually acts as a deterrent for teens. Many experts say that attempting to use shock value to get teenagers to change risky behaviors is a waste of time. In fact, there is some evidence that the approach can actually backfire.

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