Sunday, March 17, 2013

Phones, Texting May Be as Dangerous as Alcohol for Drivers


Using a handsfree kit or sending text messages behind the wheel driving is as dangerous as being being legally drunk.

Scientists from the Australian universities of Wollongong, Victoria, Swinburne of Technology, the Institute for breathing and sleep and the University of Barcelona have measured the reaction capacity behind the wheel of healthy volunteers who participated in a driving simulation test lasting two days, each a week apart.

The study included 12 university students who took two driving-simulation tests -- once after consuming alcohol and once while using headphones and a microphone to simulate a hands-free system. People who were habitual drinkers or had never consumed alcohol were not included in the study.

The participants, who had driving licenses, had to maintain their vehicle's position in the center of the left lane at a speed of between 60 and 80 kilometres per hour, and brake every time a truck appeared.

Texting while Driving is Dangerous

The researchers found that when having a phone conversation that required a lot of attention or when answering a text message, the participants' levels of distraction were equal to the effects of having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that was above the legal level in both countries (0.5 grams per liter).

Handsfree just as Bad

"Our results suggest that the use of hands-free devices could also put drivers at risk," Leung Shuk Man said. "Although they should be allowed, they require more research to determine how they should be regulated and, of course, the thorough knowledge that national authorities should have regarding their pros and cons," concludes study co-author Sumie Leung Shuk Man, a researcher at the University of Barcelona.


The above story is based on the March 13, 2013 news release by  Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT)

The research has been published in Traffic Injury Prevention, the official journal of the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine (AAAM), International Council on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety (ICADTS), the International Research Council on Biomechanics of Injury (IRCOBI) and the International Traffic Medicine Association (ITMA):

Leung S, Croft RJ, Jackson ML, Howard ME, McKenzie RJ. A comparison of the effect of mobile phone use and alcohol consumption on driving simulation performance. Traffic Inj Prev. 2012;13(6):566-74. doi: 10.1080/15389588.2012.683118.

More information

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has more about distracted driving.

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