As reported by the New York Times and other media outlets, Virginia Tech University has just announced research findings showing that a texting driver is 23 times more likely to get in an accident than a non-distracted driver, significantly exceeding the risk of any other mobile wireless activity.
In conducting the study, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) monitored the cabs of long-haul trucks with video cameras for 18 months and for over six million miles of driving.
The study found that texting drivers took their eyes off the road for about five seconds, the longest duration of eyes-off-the-road time of any cell phone task. This amounts to the equivalent of traveling the length of a football field at 55 mph without looking at the roadway. This greatly increased the chance of the operator getting involved in a “safety critical event,” such as a crash or near crash. And just the act of cell phone dialing was about six times more likely to lead to an accident.
The Virginia Tech study also suggests that drivers talking on or listening to cell phones may only be slightly more at risk that non-distracted drivers. The Virginia Tech findings are somewhat at odds with various other studies, including the preliminary National Highway Traffic Safety Administration research findings, which concluded that hands-free operation could still pose serious dangers of automobile injury.
The full data will be released once the peer review process reaches completion.
VTTI researchers maintain that the real key to significantly improving safety is eyes on the road. Cognitive distractions (including emotional conversations, books on tape, and other tasks) can have a measurable effect in the laboratory but the actual driving risks are much lower, they claim. However, headset cell phone use is about as risky as hand-held use for those headset devices that still require answering, dialing, and other manual functions that distract the person behind the wheel.
VTTI also recommends that cell phone use of any kind should be banned for newly licensed teen drivers. According to VTTI studies, teenagers are four times more likely to get into a cell phone-related crash or near crash than their adult counterparts.
VTTI has another study in the hopper for light vehicles; results should be available later this year.
The Commonwealth of Virginia and 13 other states currently ban texting while driving.
Unfortunately, car accidents from distracted drivers cause serious injuries and death every day across the state of Virginia. If you–or someone you love–have been injured in an automobile accident, do not hesitate to get in touch with the Personal Injury lawyers at the Law Office of Richard J Serpe, PC.
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