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Ben Glass
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Hazard from Texting While Driving

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According to a recent study conducted by researchers at Eastern Virginia Medical School and Children’s Hospital of the Kings’ Daughters in Norfolk, driving while text messaging or fiddling with an MP3 player is an even greater hazard than talking on a cell phone while driving.

In the study, the researchers had 21 teenagers between the ages of 16 and 18 take part in a series of simulated driving experiments.

Donald Lewis, MD, chief of Eastern Virginia Medical School’s department of pediatrics and co-researcher said that each teen was asked to get behind the wheel of a simulated vehicle and drive through simulated scenery, in rural, then urban settings, in 10-minute intervals.

The participants were first asked to drive with no distractions involved. Afterward, the were asked to drive through the same scenes again, but text messaging, talking on a cell phone, and finally operating an MP3 player.

Lewis said the findings did not surprise the researchers, but referred to them as “frightening.”

In the tests involving distractions that required finger movement, the participants steered the virtual vehicles erratically, weaving in and out of lanes and running over virtual people.

Lewis said that the worst driving came when the participants were text messaging, likely due to being required to look down in addition to moving their fingers.

Lewis said the mistakes the participants made included dramatically slowing down and weaving more than a foot outside their lane.

The participants were required to have at least six months of experience. Teens diagnosed with attention disorders or with a history of unsafe driving were excluded. Also excluded were teens who reported the use of alcohol or excessive amounts of caffeine.

According to Lewis, a growing body of research suggests that texting while driving is a rapidly increasing issue. Young drivers in Virginia are banned by law from using their cell phones while driving, but Lewis says that it would be difficult to enforce due to the difficulty of judging a driver’s age.

A recent American Automobile Association study said that people text messaging while driving increases the risk of an accident by 50 percent. Some states have banned texting while driving and Lewis says he believes they all should.

2 Comments

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  1. Mike Bryant says:
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    This is important information that all drivers need to know.

  2. Rosa says:
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    this is a giant public health risk, a lot of states are pushing for driving while texting bans. Maybe it will save lives and stop accidents i found this story about it that has useful stats and crazy crashes: http://www.newsy.com/videos/texting_and_driving_your_right_or_a_new_way_to_crash