Eating, Texting And, Oh Yeah, Driving: Distraction Grips Motorists, Especially Teens

We just drove over two hours in the winter storm from Boston to Connecticut. It wasn’t pretty but there was one definite upside: not a single driver I saw was texting, fumbling with a cellphone, eating, putting on makeup or shaving while on the road. Everyone was pretty much focused on the highway, concentrating on not sliding into a guardrail or another car.

So do we need a major nor’easter to keep the roads safe from cellphone-addicted drivers? Maybe.

A new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine today found that drivers are “engaged in other tasks” — not related to driving — about 10 percent of the time they’re in the driver’s seat. And it’s worse for freshly licensed teenage drivers.

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health and Virginia Tech conclude that: “secondary tasks requiring drivers to look away from the road ahead, such as dialing and texting, are significant risk factors for crashes and near-crashes, particularly among novice drivers.”

Here’s more on the study of Washington, D.C., and southwestern Virginia drivers from the news release:

Risks of distracted driving were greatest for newly licensed teen drivers, who were substantially more likely than adults to be involved in a crash or near miss while texting or engaging in tasks secondary to driving, according to the researchers….

Experienced adults were more than twice as likely to crash or have a near miss when dialing a cell phone as when they did not dial and drive, but did not have an increased risk while engaging in other tasks secondary to driving.

However, the researchers found that distracted driving substantially increased the risks for new drivers. Compared to when they were not involved in secondary tasks, novice teen drivers were:

•eight times more likely to crash or have a near miss when dialing
•seven to eight times more likely when reaching for a phone or other object,
•almost four times more likely when texting, and
•three times more likely when eating. Continue reading