Texting Drivers Have Slower Reaction Times than Drunk Drivers

 
 
By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2009-06-29 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Friends don't let friends drive and text - that's the message from a Car and Driver test that, on a closed course, included an iPhone, a fifth of Smirnoff and a Honda Pilot. At 35 and 70 mph, the reaction times of the drivers while texting were far worse than those, sans devices, after a few rounds of cocktails.

Drinking and driving is illegal, not to mention morally reprehensible and in no way advocated. Driving and texting, however, while still legal in some states and performed by many otherwise rational people, may be even more dangerous, a test by Car and Driver reveals.
 
The magazine rented out an airport taxiway and then measured the reaction times of two drivers, the magazine's 22-year-old intern, with his iPhone, and its 37-year-old editor in chief, Eddie Alterman, a man with a Samsung Alias - and professional driving experience.
 
The test was thus: A Honda Pilot was outfitted with a red light on the windshield, and when it went on, the men were told to step on the brake. They were tested while reading a text and driving, and then texting and driving, first at 35 mph and then at 70 mph. Next, after a few Smirnoff and orange juice cocktails, they were tested again at both speeds, without the devices.
 
Each test was performed five times, the slowest reaction time was thrown out and an average speed was determined. The data was recorded using a Racelogic VBOX III data logger, which measured the information through three sources, Caranddriver.com reports.
 
At both speeds, 37-year-old Alterman's reaction times were the worst of the two. But for both men, and at both speeds, their slowed reaction times while texting, and the distance in feet those times translated to, were far worse than while they were intoxicated-which, as slow as they seem by comparison here, in countless instances have proved fatal.
 
At 70 mph, Alterman's baseline reaction time was 0.56 of a second. Calculating that a vehicle moving at 70 mph travels 103 feet every second, while driving under the influence, Alterman's reaction time slowed to 0.60 of a second, or an extra 4 feet traveled. While reading a text, his reaction time slowed to 0.91 seconds, or a distance of 36 extra feet traveled, and while texting and driving his reaction time was 1.24 seconds-a difference of 70 extra feet.
 
Even at 35 mph, Alterman traveled an extra 7 feet while impaired, an extra 41 feet while texting and an extra 45 feet while reading a text. Also at 35 mph, the 22-year-old intern drove an extra foot while impaired, but an extra 4 feet while texting and 6 extra feet while reading a text.
 
The most appalling of the worst times-which, again, were not included in the official averages-included the intern traveling an extra 21 feet while reading a text and driving only 35 mph, and Alterman, while texting and driving at 70 mph, traveling a whopping 319 extra feet.
 
"In our test, neither subject had any idea that using his phone would slow down his reaction time so much," wrote Michael Austin on caranddriver.com.
 
"So the next time you're tempted to text, tweet, email or otherwise type while driving, either ignore the urge or pull over. We don't want you rear-ending us." 



 
 
 
 
Michelle Maisto has been covering the enterprise mobility space for a decade, beginning with Knowledge Management, Field Force Automation and eCRM, and most recently as the editor-in-chief of Mobile Enterprise magazine. She earned an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University, and in her spare time obsesses about food. Her first book, The Gastronomy of Marriage, if forthcoming from Random House in September 2009.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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