Text messaging behind the wheel increases the risk of a crash or a near crash by 23 times, and is far more dangerous than talking on a cell phone while driving, according to a report released Tuesday.
The study by the VirginiaTechTransportationInstitute(VTTI) said while talking on a phone did not cause drivers to take their eyes off the road, use of a keypad distracted motorists with disastrous consequences.
"Textmessagingonacellphonewasassociatedwiththehighestriskofallcellphonerelatedtasks," the VTTI said. "Thetasksthatdrawthedriver'seyesawayfromtheforwardroadwaywerethosewiththehighestrisk."
Studies conducted by the VTTI found that text messaging resulted in thelongestdurationof"eyesoffroadtime"-- 4.6secondsoverasix-second interval.
"Thisequatestoadrivertravelingthelengthofafootballfield(100 yards/meters) at55miles per hour (88.5 kilometers per hour) withoutlookingattheroadway," it said.
"Talking/listeningtoacellphonealloweddriverstomaintaineyesontheroadandwerenotassociatedwithanincreasedsafetyriskto nearlythesamedegree," it said.
The study found that the risk of a crash or a near crash in a light vehicle or car while dialing on a cell phone was 2.8 times higher than non-distracted driving.
It was 1.3timeshigherwhen it came to talking or listening on a cell phone, and 1.4 times higher when reaching for an objectsuch as an electronicdevice.
In heavyvehicles or trucks, the risk of a crash or near crash was 5.9timeshigherwhen dialing a cell phone, 1.0timeshigherwhile talking or listening on a cell phone and 6.7timeshigherwhen reaching for a device.
For truck drivers, the risk of a crash or near crash was 23.2timeshigherwhile texting thanfor non-distracteddriving, a figure considered equivalent for other drivers.
For the report, the VTTI used camerasandinstrumentationto observe light vehicle and truck drivers involved in more than six millionmiles(nearly 10 million kilometers) ofdriving.
"Theseresultsshowconclusivelythatarealkeytosignificantlyimprovingsafetyiskeepingyoureyesontheroad," the VTTI said.
It recommended that "textinganddialing,shouldalwaysbeavoided" and called for text messagingtobebannedinmovingvehiclesforalldrivers.
According to The New York Times, texting while driving is banned in 14 of the 50 US states.
The Times reported last week that the federal agency tasked with keeping US roadways safe suppressed research seven years ago on the dangers of cell phone use while driving, fearing political fallout from the study.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opted against making public data it had compiled on the dangers of "multi-tasking" behind the wheel because of concerns about angering members of Congress, the daily said.
The NHTSA research, which tracked cell phone use by US drivers in 2002, found that 955 people were killed during 240,000 roadway accidents while speaking or texting on a cell phone.
(c) 2009 AFP
Explore further: Rural drivers using cell phones are likely to cause accidents