Newly compiled results from more than six million miles of observed driving suggest that it's the act of taking one's eyes off the road, more than the cognitive distraction of talking or listening on the phone, that's most dangerous.
The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study included dataâ€”all gathered 'naturalistically,' meaning via camera systems and instruments in real-world drivingâ€”for dialing a cellphone, talking/listening to a cellphone, and reaching for an object. That data was also gathered for both light-vehicle drivers and truck drivers, where text messaging was included.
According to the findings, dialing was 2.8 times as risky as non-distracted driving, while talking/listening and reaching for an object were 1.3 and 1.4 times as risky, respectively. The real shocker was text messaging; for the truck drivers, texting brought 23.2 times the risk of a crash or near-crash event. The research showed that text messaging brought the driver's eyes away from the road for the longest time of all the tasks; for the trucker, it was the equivalent of covering the length of a football field at 55 mph without looking at the road, the researchers said.
Among the recommendations from the VTTI researchers are that texting should be banned for all drivers; that users migrate to voice-activated hands-free systems to that they don't have to take their eyes off the road; and that all cellphone use should be banned for teen drivers.