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Study: Texting Raises Crash Risk 23.2 Times

July 27, 2009

BLACKSBURG, VA - Truck and heavy-vehicle drivers who text-message while driving are 23.2 times more likely to be involved in a crash or near-crash as non-distracted motorists, according to new research conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. 

The research project involved several large-scale driving studies using sophisticated cameras and instrumentation in participants' personal vehicles under natural conditions. Combined, the studies continuously observed drivers for more than 6 million miles of driving. 

The research also found that truck and heavy-vehicle drivers dialing a cell phone are 5.9 times more likely to be involved in a crash or near-crash as a non-distracted driver. Interestingly, that statistic falls to 2.8 times when the driver dialing the phone is in a light vehicle or car. 

"Given recent catastrophic crash events and disturbing trends, there is an alarming amount of misinformation and confusion regarding cell phone and texting use while behind the wheel of a vehicle," said Dr. Tom Dingus, director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. "The findings from our research at VTTI can help begin to clear up these misconceptions as it is based on real-world driving data. We conduct transportation safety research in an effort to equip the public with information that can save lives." 

In VTTI studies that include light-vehicle drivers and truck drivers, manual manipulation of phones -- such as dialing and texting of the cell phone -- leads to a substantial increase in the risk of being involved in a crash or near-crash. However, talking or listening increased risk much less for light vehicles (1.3 times) and not at all for trucks. Text messaging on a cell phone was associated with the highest risk of all cell phone-related tasks. 

Eye-glance analyses were conducted to assess where drivers were looking while involved in a crash or near-crash at the same time they were performing cell phone tasks. The tasks that draw the driver's eyes away from the forward roadway are those with the highest risk, VTTI said.

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