Many people are aware the safety risks associated with distracted driving, particularly when using cellphones behind the wheel. Researchers are trying to determine the most perilous forms of distracted driving. A study published in the Jan. 2, 2014 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine revealed that the greatest danger posed by cellphone use while driving is dialing the phone or sending text messages, particularly among young drivers.

Real-world driving study

Researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute equipped the vehicles of 42 drivers aged 16 or 17 years old and 109 adult drivers with an average of 20 years of driving experience with cameras, GPS devices, lane tracking systems, speed and acceleration monitors along with other sensors to monitor driver behavior. Researchers recorded data about how drivers responded when doing such activities such as dialing cellphones, sending text messages, talking on cellphones, looking for objects in the vehicle and using other electronic devices.

Young drivers most at risk

Researchers discovered that dialing cellphones and sending text messages were the most threatening to driving safety, especially when the driver was young and inexperienced. The study showed that young drivers increased their risk of an auto accident or near-miss of an auto accident by seven times when dialing a cellphone or reaching for the phone. The risk of motor vehicle accident or near-accident for young drivers rose by four times when sending a text message. Researchers also found an increased likelihood of an auto accident when teen drivers were reaching for objects other than cellphones, eating and looking at objects on the side of the road.

Researchers found that, unlike teenaged drivers, older drivers only increased their chances of an auto accident or near-miss of an accident when dialing a cellphone. Researchers noted that the majority of the data was collected prior to the explosion in popularity of text messaging for adults, so they are unsure whether sending text messages is as much of a safety threat to seasoned drivers as it is for novice drivers.

One discovery that researchers made that was at odds with previous distracted driving research was that merely talking on a cellphone was not as much of a crash threat as previously believed. However, critics note that the methodology of the study did not account for wholly cognitive distractions, which is the major form of distraction when a person is talking on a cellphone while driving.

Talk to a lawyer

As more research comes out on distracted driving, it paints an ever-clearer picture of the dangers that distracted drivers pose to everyone on the road. The accidents caused by distracted driving are completely preventable – and it is only because of the poor choices of some drivers that they happen at all. If you have been injured by a distracted driver, seek the assistance of a skilled personal injury attorney who can help you hold that driver accountable for his or her negligence and recover fully for your losses.

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