Texting While Driving Increases Crash Rate by Up to 32 Times

According to the CDC, distracted driving has three main components: visual, manual and cognitive. Visual distraction consists of a driver taking his eyes off the road, manual distraction occurs when a driver takes his hands off the wheel and cognitive distraction consists of a driver taking his mind off the task of driving.

Distracted driving can take many forms: talking on the phone is a well-known example of dangerous driving behavior, but the UCSD study found that texting is far more risky. While talking on the phone while driving increased the crash rate around four times, texting while driving increased the crash rate 16 to 32 times.

In a recent press release, Linda Hill said that the study found that “distracted driving has become an accepted behavior” in spite of the known risks.

For the study, researchers distributed questions to randomly selected students in the form of an anonymous Internet survey. Five thousand students were chosen for the study from nine colleges throughout San Diego County. The mean age of study participants was 21. Two-thirds of the students selected were female, and most were undergraduates.

Of the 78 percent who admitted to engaging in some kind of distracted behavior while driving, half said they texted while driving on the freeway, and 87 percent said they had sent texts while idling at red lights.

Hill said that distracted driving has become extremely prevalent. 

“The people who observed others driving distracted were more likely to drive distracted themselves,” Hill said.

She stated in a press release that college students have “misplaced confidence in their own driving skills and their ability to multitask.”

In an interview with the San Diego radio station KPBS, Hill said distracted driving at full speed on a freeway is a dangerous because there are long distances traveled in short periods of time. Taking your eyes off the road to text, a process which takes 3 to 5 seconds, is enough time to travel “the length of a football field.” In that time period, Hill said, “it’s as if you’re driving with your eyes shut.”

The survey asked students what it would take for them to drive more safely. Students named several punishments that, if implemented, would deter them from driving distracted. These include: removing insurance coverage for crashes caused by distracted driving, giving drivers a point on their driving record for their first distracted driving citation, and creating a $350 fine for first-time distracted driving.