Study proves it! Texting while driving is really, really dangerous

It seems a no-brainer, but a study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has confirmed that texting while driving ups the chances of getting into a crash by roughly 2,300 percent. In other words, drivers are 23 times more likely to wreck if they are simultaneously texting.

The research gives a sober new meaning to the phrase "pry that BlackBerry from my cold dead hands" and is the most comprehensive evidence to date that texting while operating a motor vehicle is actually by far the most dangerous distracting behavior drivers engage in.

Previous research in simulators had recorded a significant increase in accident risk to drivers who text behind the wheel, but those findings pale in comparison to the Virginia Tech results for several reasons. First, the Virginia Tech research actually recorded subject drivers who were texting, fiddling with the radio, talking on a cell phone, or reaching for an electronic device. Other studies to date have primarily relied on driving simulators in university labs.

Instead of relying on simulators, the Virginia Tech researchers outfitted 100 trucks with special cameras and recorded actual driving activity for over 3 million miles of road service on U.S. highways. Using the video footage, the researchers analyzed where the eyes of the subjects were focused during distracting tasks and the duration of time that the truckers' eyes were averted from the road for each type of activity.

Those tasks that required the greatest amount of time spent not looking at the road are likely the most dangerous, the researchers said. Of all the behaviors tested, texting resulted in 4.6 seconds of eyes off the road out of a 6 second period. This duration would have allowed the vehicle to travel about the length of a football field at 55 mph without the driver looking at the highway -- clearly enough distance to get into serious trouble.

Interestingly, the research found that there was no appreciable safety benefit to forcing cell phone users to use headphones while driving. Rather, the Virginia Tech research found little real danger differential between talking on a cell phone with a headset on or off. The critical moment of danger, the researchers believe, is when a driver's eyes leave the road, something that must happen on cell phones regardless of whether a headset is being used (that is, unless you have voice-dialing that functions far better than all the voice-dialing systems that I've tried).

Alex Salkever is a senior writer at AOL Daily Finance covering tech, green tech and clean tech.

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