Texting while driving may be as risky as drunken driving

There are many reasons for accidents on the road. Use of cell phones while driving is one of them.US research reveals that 4 out of 5 college student drivers have used their cell phones to send or receive text messages while driving despite the majority recognizing that the activity represents a risk.

According to  Garold Lantz and Sandra Loeb of the McGowan School of Business, at King’s College, in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, male drivers are more likely to engage in texting while driving but consider themselves more proficient drivers than others and so less likely to endanger themselves or others while doing so.

Their analysis indicated that  ‘texting impulsiveness’ is positively associated with people who text frequently and those who text while driving. The researchers reported  in the International Journal of Sustainable Strategic Management this month.

You may not believe this; earlier studies suggested that texting while driving is on a par with driving while intoxicated with alcohol as a significant risk factor for highway accidents.  Some research suggested that texting slows driver reaction times more than being drunk. There is prevalent myth that some people can competently carry out multitasking ie, carrying out many tasks simultaneously. The scientifically established fact is that  very few (2.5%) people can competently undertake two or more tasks at once.

Moreover, our brains allow us to focus completely only on a single task at any given time, so those people demonstrated as multi-taskers are simply better at switching seamlessly between two activities. Texting while driving is already banned in some countries, including the UK for this reason.

“There seems to be a mentality that use of electronic devices is dangerous for everyone but ‘me’,” the researchers  say.

While the US government has introduced a public awareness campaign based around the “distraction.gov” web site, the means to correct for such a risky practice as texting while driving is in dispute. The team’s study provides useful empirical evidence regarding attitudes to this issue.

“If further research conclusively demonstrates that texting while driving is as dangerous as driving drunk this study suggests that a promotional campaign should be undertaken to assure that this point is clearly understood,” the team suggests. Lantz admits  that, “Our study, particularly our measurement of impulsiveness, is exploratory. We have been working to develop that measurement and it is still a work in progress,” he says.

Any activity that imperils others and themselves while driving must be stopped.

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About ksparthasarathy

I am a former Secretary of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. I am a former Raja Ramanna Fellow in the Department of Atomic Energy. Free lance journalism is my hobby
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