Writing text messages while driving is as dangerous as being considerably above the legal drink drive limit, researchers have found (Telegraph).
An international inquiry concluded that sending messages on a mobile phone leads to “significant risks”. Researchers found that it was as dangerous as being a quarter over the legal drink drive limit.
The study, published in the Traffic Injury Prevention journal, also found that having deep, thoughtful conversations while using a hands-free mobile phone was a danger.
In contrast, simple discussions may not carry significant driving risks, according to scientists from the University of Barcelona and several Australian institutes.
12 healthy volunteers – all students who held a driving licence – completed a series of driving tasks on two separate days, a week apart. Driving performance was assessed by time within a target speed range. The study looked at speeding, braking reaction time, speed deviation, and lane changing.
One day, the group members used a mobile phone while they performed a “simulated driving task” under four conditions. These included no phone usage, talking naturally with a hands-free device, holding a demanding conversation over a hands-free phone, and text messaging.
On the other day, the volunteers used a driving simulator after drinking alcohol to reach three different blood alcohol concentration levels: 0.04, equivalent to 40 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood and half the legal limit in Britain; 0.07; and 0.10. Some drank no alcohol.
The results showed that road skills declined by an equal amount among volunteers 25% above the legal drink limit and those who used their phone for text messages.
When using hands-free phones during “simple” conversations, it was similar to having a blood-alcohol level of 0.04. If more attention was required, the reading “shot up” to the blood alcohol equivalent of 0.07.
Dr Sumie Leung Shuk Man, co-author of the study, said: “Our results suggest that the use of hands-free devices could also put drivers at risk. Although they should be allowed, they require more research to determine how they should be regulated.”
Dr Shuk Man, of the University of Barcelona, said: “The findings… suggest that very simple conversations on a mobile phone may not represent a significant driving risk compared with legally permissible blood alcohol levels.
“Cognitively demanding, hands-free conversation and particularly texting represent significant risks.”
Click here to read the full Telegraph report.