A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study called for a law prohibiting text messaging while driving, concluding that doing both at the same time can increase the risk of a crash by 23 times.
The VTTIs study, which surveyed drivers over six million miles of road, found that manual manipulation of cell phones, such as dialing and text messaging, produced the highest risk for drivers of all vehicle types. Text messaging, however, was deemed the most dangerous of all cell phone-related activity, leading to a 23-fold risk of a crash for drivers of heavy vehicles or trucks.
VTTI’s research concluded that text messaging resulted in the longest duration of time that eyes were off the road, averaging more than 4.6 seconds over a 6-second interval, which is equal to a driver traveling the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour without looking at the roadway.
The study also found that listening or talking on a cell phone while behind the wheel increased a driver’s risk only slightly in light vehicles and not at all for trucks, largely due to the fact that talking or listening allowed drivers to maintain eye contact with the road.
The study, which noted that several recent high visibility trucking and transit crashes have been directly linked to texting from a cell phone, aimed to clear up misconceptions about cell phone use and driving under real world circumstances, researchers said.
“Given recent catastrophic crash events and disturbing trends, there is an alarming amount of misinformation and confusion regarding cell phone and texting use while behind the wheel of a vehicle. The findings from our research at VTTI can help begin to clear up these misconceptions as it is based on real world driving data,” said Tom Dingus, VTTI director, in a statement. “We conduct transportation safety research in an effort to equip the public with information that can save lives.”
In light of the study’s findings, researchers called for a ban on text messaging while driving, and a ban on all cell phone activity for teen drivers.
“This cell phone task has the potential to create a true crash epidemic if texting type tasks continue to grow in popularity and the generation of frequent text message senders reach driving age in large numbers,” the VTTI researchers wrote.