Handsfree and Texting Behind the Wheel More Dangerous than Drink Driving?

by barlowrobbins on May 23, 2013

Researchers have found that writing text messages behind the wheel – and even using your hands-free set – could be just as dangerous as drinking and driving. Quickly sending a message to friends and family puts you at serious risk. While communicating with others, your driving performance suffers as much as those who are 25% above the legal drink-drive limit.

Having deep conversations which require thought makes driving dangerous, says the study, released by the Traffic Injury Prevention journal. Simple dialogue, through a hands-free set, may not pose the same risks, however. So if you want to stay safe, leave the heavy discussions until you’re out of the car.

Should We Throw Away Our Hands-Free?

Researchers haven’t claimed that hands-free sets should be scrapped, but in light of this study, some believe that they should be analysed further, and regulated.

The Research

In an Australian study, 12 healthy students with a driving licence were asked to complete a series of motor tests to assess their driving performance. The researchers were watching their reaction time, braking, speed deviation, and lane changing.

To ensure a fair test, anyone who habitually consumed alcohol was not allowed to take part in the test; nor were those who never drink. One test assessed their responses to simulated driving when they had no phone, talking with a hands-free, keeping-up with a demanding conversation, and texting. Scientists would create a conversation by engaging in discussion about an interesting topic, as well as query the driver, to make the dialogue more challenging.

On the second day, the volunteers were asked to drink alcohol to compare their reaction times etc. to their previous results, when communicating through texts or on the hands-free phone. In a driving simulator, participants had to reach speeds of between 40mph and 50mph – every time a lorry appeared, they had to brake.

To recreate the hands-free experience, volunteers wore headphones and a microphone. The results showed that most participants suffered from reduced driving skills when communicating – the equivalent of being 25% above the drink-driving limit. Simple conversations resulted in similar reactions to having a blood-alcohol level of 0.04. When the discussion grew more complicated, this increased to 0.07.

By far the worst result came from text messaging which had similar results to 0.1. You can drive in the UK under the influence of 0.08 (80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood). Texting while driving accounts for as much as 25% of all motor collisions. On average, texting takes a driver’s eyes off the road completely for 4.6 seconds – you’re driving blind! Every day, texting while driving kills 11 teenagers.

Wait until you’ve stopped driving to send texts and pull over if you’re desperate to do so. Texting makes you 23% more likely to have a car accident, and with those odds, it’s not worth quickly sending a message to your partner. We’re sure they’d prefer you home safe and well.

If you have been involved in a driving accident and have been conflicted, support and advice on how to approach and deal with it is available from these motoring solicitors:

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