Washington: Texting and talking on cell phones behind the wheel kills more than 5,000 people every year on US highways. Teen drivers seem to be especially susceptible to distraction, a study says.
A 2009 study focusing on drivers of larger vehicles and trucks has concluded that texting raised the risk of a crash by 23 times compared with non-distracted driving, says an environmental report.
Environmental researcher Uvid Hosansky, who authored the report for the journal CQ Researcher, wrote, "Texting drivers took their eyes off the road for each text an average of 4.6 seconds, which at 55 mph means they were driving the length of a football field without looking."
Talking on a cell phone is also dangerous. "Experts say that talking on a cell phone while driving is far more distracting than talking with an adult passenger because it consumes additional cognitive resources, including creating a mental picture of the person on the other end of the conversation," added Hosansky, who was twice nominated for Pulitzer Prize.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, US, estimated that 16 per cent of all drivers younger than 20 years involved in fatal crashes were believed to be distracted, "the highest proportion of any age group," by texting and mobile phone use, reports the journal CQ Researcher.
"Although some people may think they can safely talk and drive, researchers who observe people in driving simulators as well as in actual cars on the road find that a cell phone conversation will invariably intrude on a driver's attentiveness," said Hosansky.
"The distractions don't stop with cell phones. Car makers are adding new technologies to the dashboard, such as Web browsers and GPS units.
Car makers say that such technologies are designed very carefully for safety, but safety advocates worry that they are creating even more hazardous driving conditions," Hosansky concluded.