Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Startling Findings Indeed

I would hever have guessed this---not in a million years.

Matt Richtel
New York Times
The first study of drivers text-messaging inside their vehicles shows the risk of a crash greatly surpasses previous estimates – and beats out by far the dangers of other driving distractions.
The new study, in which the cabs of long-haul trucks were monitored by video cameras for 18 months, found that when the drivers texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater than when not texting.
The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, which compiled the latest research and plans to release its findings today, also measured the time drivers take their eyes off the road to send or receive texts.
In the moments before a crash or near crash, drivers typically spent nearly five seconds looking at their devices – enough time at typical highway speeds to cover more than the length of a football field.
The researchers said that even though trucks take longer to stop and are less manoeuvrable than cars, the findings apply generally to all drivers, who tend to behave much like the truckers studied.
Compared with other sources of driver distraction, "texting is in its own universe of risk," said Rich Hanowski, who oversaw the study at the institute. The analysis was financed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which has the mission of improving safety in trucks and buses.
Another study, carried out in a lab at the University of Utah with students using a sophisticated driving simulator, showed an eight-fold increase in crash risk while texting.
Tom Dingus, director of the Virginia Tech institute, one of the world's largest vehicle safety research organizations, said the trucking study's message about texting while driving is clear.
"You should never do this," he said. "It should be illegal."
Thirty-six states do not ban texting while driving. California, New Jersey and Alaska are among the 14 that do.

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