Study: Texting Raises Crash Risk 23-Fold

Truck drivers texting on their cell phones are more than 23 times as likely to be involved in a crash or near-crash, according to a study set to be released Tuesday.

But texting isn't the only culprit, according to the study by researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Truckers were 6 times as likely to crash while dialing and nearly 7 times as likely when simply reaching for an object like a cell phone.

The study involved video cameras installed in truck cabs over a period of 18 months, according to the New York Times.

But the results aren't limited to truckers. Car drivers were also found to be 1-2 times as likely to be involved in a crash when dialing or talking on the phone. And recent studies have shown that those hands-free devices - required by law for drivers in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. - don't reduce the risk compared to talking while holding the phone.

That fact is among several a government agency concealed for years according to a New York Times report this week.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gathered hundreds of pages of research and warnings about the hazards of drivers using cell phones, but withheld the information from the public in part out of fear of angering Congress, the Times found. Among the agency's findings:

  • Cell phone usage by drivers increased 50 percent, from 4 percent in 2000 to 6 percent in 2002.

  • Driver distraction contributes to about 25 percent of all police-reported traffic crashes.

  • Cell phone use is growing as a distraction while driving.

    Draft recommendations from NHTSA included that "drivers not use these devices when driving except in an emergency."

    Legislation forbidding the use of hand-held cell phones while driving was not recommended because it does not address the problem and may instead lead drivers to think hands-free phones are safer.

    The problem is that a cell phone conversation takes the driver's focus off the road, the studies showed. The VTTI study reinforces those findings.

    "There is an alarming amount of misinformation and confusion regarding cell phone and texting use while behind the wheel of a vehicle," said VTTI director Tom Dingus in a press release previewing the study findings. "The findings from our research at VTTI can help begin to clear up these misconceptions as it is based on real-world driving data."

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