Trillions of texts are sent each year. Two-thirds of the world’s population, that’s over four billion people, now have access to phones that enable texting, and they’re doing it often.
What’s interesting about the new report is that the act of texting distracts the human brain like little else, ergo, driving while texting is a sure-fire way to end up dead. According to the new study, texting is a completely unique distraction when it comes to driving. Things like driving while emotional or even absent-mindedness doesn’t hold a candle to how distracted one gets when texting while driving. When a driver is naturally distracted, the researchers said that a sort of hyper-focus, or what the researchers called a “sixth sense” kicks in that corrects driver deviations.
Tests conducted on driver habits discovered that when a driver is distracted by something in their car or something on their mind, this sixth sense kicks in, making drivers even more aware of the road than they normally are.
Ioannis Pavlidis, a computer science professor at the University of Houston’s Computational Physiology Lab and lead author of the study, commented on the sixth sense phenomenon.
“The driver’s mind can wander and his or her feelings may boil, but a sixth sense keeps a person safe at least in terms of veering off course.”
However, Pavlidis said that when a driver is texting, the researchers found that the Sixth Sense doesn’t kick in. “What makes texting so dangerous is that it wreaks havoc onto this sixth sense.”
Pavlidis’ study involved 59 participants who used a driving simulator. While using the simulator, the test subjects were caused to undergo different types of distracting situations, those being cognitive, emotional and physical distractions. The cognitive distractions were applied in the form of questions, including basic math questions, which were induced to provide a state of absent-mindedness. The emotional distractions were applied using questions such as “have you ever lied on a job application” and other, similar questions that would induce discomfort and/or other emotional responses.
Why is a computer science professor studying the deadly psychological effects of texting on drivers? Mr. Pavlidis says that he and his department are hoping to develop a monitoring system in cars that can sense when a person is distracted and automatically correct erratic driving.
Pavlidis predictably discovered that cognitive, emotional, and physical distractions decreased each driver’s ability to maintain a straight course on the simulator. However, he found that when the participants tried texting while driving, their free hands became more jittery on the wheel, and they often drifted into other lanes. On the whole, the act of texting while driving affected the participants far more negatively than any of the other distractions.
This most recent study is yet another in a long line of research that has determined just how dangerous and deadly texting while driving can be. Experts advise drivers to keep their cell phones in a compartment or glove box while driving to avoid the temptation of texting while driving. Additionally, they also strongly advise drivers who absolutely must use their phones in their cars to use hands-free Bluetooth technology, which has been found to be far safer than actually holding a cell phone with one hand while driving with the other.
According to all involved, texting while driving is extremely dangerous, and it will only be a matter of time before it results in an accident.