Local News

Texas study shows texting could double drivers' reaction times

Posted October 5, 2011 4:06 p.m. EDT
Updated October 5, 2011 7:16 p.m. EDT

— Texting while driving is illegal in North Carolina and carries a $100 fine because lawmakers deemed it a dangerous distraction on the road, but a new study out of Texas suggests that it may be more of a hazard than anyone imagined.

Statistics show that distracted driving contributes to nearly 20 percent of fatal crashes. Now, researchers with the Texas Transportation Institute are reporting that texting while driving could as much as double reaction times behind the wheel.

The study was the first to look at texting in a real driving environment. Dozens of people had to read and type a story on their phones while they drove along an 11-mile closed track. Then, they had to react to a flashing light.

When focused on the road, the drivers typically reacted within two seconds of seeing the light. When they were texting, however, it took up to four seconds for drivers to react.

That's not all. The drivers who were texting were also 11 times more likely to miss the light altogether.

"Drivers have only half as much time to respond to sudden events in their driving environment, whether that's a swerving vehicle, a vehicle that brakes in front of them or a pedestrian," Texas researcher Christine Yager said Wednesday.

Yager said that texting was dangerous even at slow speeds in wide driving lanes.

"There were still many close calls. We had participants strike barrels," she said. "It's just really scary to think this is happening on our public roadways."