Texting and Driving… How Dangerous Is It?
The Key 2 Safe Driving May Change The Results
We investigate if sending messages on your phone while driving is more LOL than OMFG.
The results, though not surprising, were eye-opening.
Intern Brown’s baseline reaction time at 35 mph of 0.45 second worsened to 0.57 while reading a text, improved to 0.52 while writing a text, and returned almost to the baseline while impaired by alcohol, at 0.46. At 70 mph, his baseline reaction was 0.39 second, while the reading (0.50), texting (0.48), and drinking (0.50) numbers were similar.
But the averages don’t tell the whole story.
Looking at Jordan’s slowest reaction time at 35 mph, he traveled an extra 21 feet (more than a car length) before hitting the brakes while reading and went 16 feet longer while texting.
At 70 mph, a vehicle travels 103 feet every second, and Brown’s worst reaction time while reading at that speed put him about 30 feet (31 while typing) farther down the road versus 15 feet while drunk.
Alterman fared much, much worse.
While reading a text and driving at 35 mph, his average baseline reaction time of 0.57 second nearly tripled, to 1.44 seconds.
While texting, his response time was 1.36 seconds.
These figures correspond to an extra 45 and 41 feet, respectively, before hitting the brakes.
His reaction time after drinking averaged 0.64 second and, by comparison, added only seven feet.
The results at 70 mph were similar: Alterman’s response time while reading a text was 0.35 second longer than his base performance of 0.56 second, and writing a text added 0.68 second to his reaction time.
But his intoxicated number increased only 0.04 second over the base score, to a total of 0.60 second.
As with the younger driver, Alterman’s slowest reaction times were a grim scenario.
He went more than four seconds before looking up while reading a text message at 35 mph and over three and a half seconds while texting at 70 mph.
Even in the best of his bad reaction times while reading or texting, Alterman traveled an extra 90 feet past his baseline performance; in the worst case, he went 319 feet farther down the road.
Moreover, his two-hands-on-the-phone technique resulted in some serious lane drifting.
The prognosis doesn’t improve when you look at the limitations of our test.
We were using a straight road without any traffic, road signals, or pedestrians, and we were only looking at reaction times.
Even though our young driver fared better than the balding Alterman, Brown’s method of holding the phone up above the dashboard and typing with one hand would make it difficult to do anything except hit the brakes.
And if anything in the periphery required a response, well, both drivers would probably be screwed.
Also, don’t take the intoxicated results to be acceptable just because they’re an improvement over the texting numbers.
They only look better because the texting results are so horrendously bad.
The buzzed Jordan had to be told twice which lane to drive in, and in the real world, that mistake could mean a head-on crash.
And we remind again that we only measured response to a light—the reduction in motor skills and cognitive power associated with impaired driving weren’t really exposed here.
Both socially and legally, drunk driving is completely unacceptable.
Texting, on the other hand, is still in its formative period with respect to laws and opinion.
A few jurisdictions have passed ordinances against texting while driving.
But even if sweeping legislation were passed to outlaw any typing behind the wheel, it would still be difficult to enforce the law.
The Key 2 Safe Driving 4 Life
In our test, neither subject had any idea that using his phone would slow down his reaction time so much.
Like most folks, they think they’re pretty good drivers.
Our results prove otherwise, at both city and highway speeds.
The key element to driving safely is keeping your eyes and your mind on the road.
Text messaging distracts any driver from that primary task.
So the next time you’re tempted to text, tweet, e-mail, or otherwise type while driving, either ignore the urge or pull over.
We don’t want you rear-ending us.
Tags: Basic driving 101, Driving Safely, Drunk Driving, hands-free headset, Key 2 Safe Driving, Key2SafeDriving, No Texting While Driving, OBDII port, state law, Teenagers, texting, Texting and Driving, texting while driving