Driver Reaction Time Doubles With Texting: Study

October 6, 2011

Most of us probably already recognize that texting while driving is a dangerous behavior. Still, many drivers continue to do so, despite safety warnings about distracted driving. New research, however, shows that texting behind the wheel doubles driver reaction time.

The study, reported by Reuters, comes out of Texas A&M University’s Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), where researchers looked at the behavior of 42 drivers between the ages of 16 and 54 on an 11-mile test course. Of course, to make the study relevant, drivers were asked to complete the loop while texting, either sending or receiving messages, and then again with their concentration completely on driving.

To add to the complexity, drivers were instructed to bring their vehicle to a stop whenever they saw a flashing yellow light.

The results were dramatic. While typical reaction time was one to two seconds with normal, non-distracted driving, it increased to three to four seconds when the driver was texting. And there was no distinction between reading a text and sending one: the slower reaction time was the same.

Drivers who were distracted by texting were 11 times more likely to miss the flashing yellow light.

Think of all the drivers on the road who mistakenly believe that they have everything under control and can read or send that text message on their cellphone without any negative consequences.

Oh, really? As TheCarConnection points out, a two-second reaction time delay translates into an increase of about 140 feet in stopping distance. So, four seconds of delayed reaction time adds about 280 feet to the driver's ability to stop.  In the real world, that may very easily mean driving smack into the back of another vehicle, being broadsided in an intersection, or being unable to take evasive action in an emergency situation.

Whatever the text message is, it isn’t worth the cost in human life. Wait to send or check texts until you’re safely off the road and parked.

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