According to research from the Texas Transportation Institute, reading or sending a text message doubles a driver’s reaction time on the road. The results indicate texting is a worse form of distracted driving than many previously believed. The study was the first published nationwide to evaluate the effects of texting in an actual driving environment and we will have to wait to see if these new findings will affect auto insurance quotes.
Drivers moved through a course normally, then while texting. They were tested on their reaction times to a periodic flashing light. Researchers noted the closed course, less than 11 miles in length, was not demanding compared to a typical driving experience. There were no other drivers on the road, no hills and the course was straight.
Drivers were more than 11 times more likely to fail to notice the flashing light while texting. When they did notice it, their reaction times were typically 3 to 4 seconds, compared to 1 or 2 seconds when their full attention was on driving.
While the researchers only tested a few activities, they indicated the findings would carry over to other tasks drivers perform behind the wheel, such as looking at social media websites or checking their e-mail.
Drivers’ ability to maintain proper lane position was impaired while texting, with researchers observing they were more likely to swerve. Their speed also varied more, largely as a result of slowing down when attention was split.
Texting With No Hands
Vehicle manufacturers are beginning to design hands-free texting capability integrated into vehicles. Such devices may allow the car to read text messages aloud, and then present the driver with pre-written text responses to choose from. Because of the way current laws are written, there is a possibility hearing messages aloud would be legal in an area, while selecting a reply on a touch-screen would not.
Given the dangers of distracted driving, it is unclear how auto insurance firms and the government will react to these new developments. While many states have laws against texting, hands-free devices may not be covered. Because they are so new, there is not yet a significant body of research determining the dangers such devices might pose. It is unclear whether they will prove as distracting as texting and car insurance quotes may or may not be affected as a result. New laws and regulations may be required to address the new technologies.