Study: drivers who text just as dangerous as drunk drivers

The dangers of texting while driving have received a copious amount of attention in the media lately-for good reason. After all, those who text or use hand-held devices while behind the wheel are four times more likely to be involved in a car accident. If this fact were not enough, a recent study found that texting while driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving.

Specifically, the study, which was recently published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention, found that texting while driving is just as dangerous as driving with a blood alcohol level of twice the legal limit.

For the study, researchers from various universities used a driving simulator to compare drunk driving and texting while driving. One group of participates used headphones and a microphone to simulate a hand-free cellphone. The other group had a blood alcohol level that was over the legal limit. In the simulator, each group had to ensure that their virtual vehicle stayed within its lane and traveled at a speed between 37 and 50 miles-per-hour.

The researchers found that when the hands-free group was merely having a conversation, they drove with the skill of a person with a blood alcohol level that was well below the legal limit. However, when the conversation became more involved, the participants drove like someone who was almost at the legal limit. When the participants used their phone to text, they drove with the skill exhibited by someone well over the legal limit.

Tennessee’s response

To help combat the danger that texting while driving and other distracting behavior causes, Tennessee has banned texting for all drivers. In addition, young drivers and bus drivers are prohibited from using cellphones at all. A violation of the texting law is a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a fine up to $50.00 plus court costs.

As it can be difficult for law enforcement to determine whether a driver is texting (or merely dialing a phone number), the Tennessee Highway Patrol has rolled out a campaign where state troopers drive a tractor-trailer to enforce the law. Using a tractor-trailer gives the trooper an unfettered line of sight into other vehicles. If the trooper driving the truck sees texting or other reckless behavior, he or she radios ahead to another trooper to make the traffic stop.

In addition to the fine, those who text while driving can face a civil lawsuit, should their negligent behavior result in an accident. In Tennessee, those who are injured by such drivers may be entitled to recover the costs of present and future medical treatment, loss of wages and pain and suffering. If you or a loved one has been injured by a careless driver, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to learn about your right to compensation.