Bicycles Vic report on something we all know... an on track in-car study in Texas confirms that texting makes drivers less safe. = = = = = = = = = = = = = = http://www.bv.com.au/general/bikes-and-riding/10731/ Texting tanks driver skills 8 December 2011. A new study using driversnon a driving circuit has found that texting makes drivers eleven times more likely to not see safety-critical objects along the road. And when they did observe, their reaction times were twice as slow as drivers who were not distracted. This is far worse then previously thought. The study was conducted by the Texas Transport Institute at the Texas A&M University on a test track circuit. Each participant navigated a test-track course involving both an open section and a section lined with construction barrels. Drivers first drove the course without texting and then undertook texting tasks while driving through the course again. Throughout the test-track exercise, each participant’s reaction time to a periodic flashing light was recorded. Reaction times with no texting activity were typically between one and two seconds. Reaction times while texting, however, were at least three to four seconds. Worse yet, drivers were more than 11 times more likely to miss the flashing light altogether when they were texting. This finding has major implications for bike riders. It is clear that a driver's ability to observe a rider is shockingly reduced if they are texting. In addition to the reaction-time element, researchers also measured each driver’s ability to maintain proper lane position and a constant speed. Major findings further documented the impairment of texting when compared to the controlled driving conditions. Drivers were less able to: safely maintain their position in the driving lane when they were texting, and their swerving was worse in the open sections of the course than in the barreled sections. maintain a constant speed while texting, tending to slow down in an effort to reduce the demand of the multiple tasks. By slowing down, a driver gains more time to correct for driving errors (such as the tendency to swerve while texting). Speed variance was also greater for texting drivers than for non texting drivers. This research, which is still underway, will produce one of the first and only studies in the nation conducted in an actual driving environment. That distinction is important, researchers say, because while simulators are useful, the dynamics of an actual vehicle are different, and some driver cues can’t be replicated in a simulator. By using a closed course, researchers can create an environment similar to real-world driving conditions while providing a high degree of safety for the participants. 20 per cent of all fatal crashes “Most research on texting and driving has been limited to driving simulators. This study involved participants driving an actual vehicle,” researcher Christine Yager says. “So one of the more important things we know now that we didn’t know before is that response times are even slower than we previously thought.” The researchers also examined the productivity level of each driver, measuring the amount of texting activity they could perform while driving. Drivers were generally able to complete about half the exercise content behind the wheel compared to what they could do in a lab setting. “There’s a general assumption by some people who believe they’re being more productive if they’re exchanging messages while they drive because they’re performing two tasks at once,” Cooper says. “But our findings suggest that the productivity level for each of those tasks drops to less than half what it should be. That indicates to us that texting while driving is not only unsafe, it’s also inefficient.” The researchers say that another finding from the study dispels a common misconception that composing a text message is a more demanding task than reading one. In post-study interviews, a majority of study participants held that belief, but study results found significant impairment from both reading and writing. The findings of this study extend to other distracting activities involving reading and writing, such as checking email or Facebook, while driving. In the interest of safety for both participants and the research staff, researchers minimised the complexity of the driving task, using a straight-line course that contained no hills, traffic or potential conflicts other than the construction-zone barrels. Consequently, the driving demands that participants encountered were considerably lower than those they would encounter under real-world conditions. “It is frightening,” the researchers wrote, “to think of how much more poorly our participants may have performed if the driving conditions were more consistent with routine driving.” US statistics suggest that distracted driving contributes to as much as 20 percent of all fatal crashes, and that cell phones constitute the primary source of driver distraction.