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Study: Texting is worse than other forms of distracted driving

With the common use of smart phones today, texting and driving has become a serious danger on Louisiana roads and highways. Recently, researchers from Texas A&M and the University of Houston reached some disturbing conclusions as to just how dangerous it is.

The researchers studied the reactions of 59 drivers traveling the same stretch of highway. The study looked at how the drivers performed behind the wheel when they were absent-minded, when they were emotionally upset and when they were texting. To simulate the first two distractions, the drivers were asked cognitively challenging questions and questions designed to elicit an emotional reaction. These results were compared to the drivers' performances while texting.

The research showed that when facing any of the three types of distraction, drivers' handling of the steering wheel became jittery. The researchers concluded this was because the brain, confronting stress, goes into a physical "fight or flight" response, which results in shaky hands on the wheel.

Significantly, the researchers also observed that when drivers were distracted cognitively or emotionally, a part of the brain, known as the anterior cingulate cortex, or ACC, intervenes, like a sixth sense, and compensates for the jittery steering. As a result, drivers did not show significant lane deviation when emotionally or cognitively distracted. When they were distracted by texting, however, the drivers made significant unsafe lane deviations.

The researchers concluded this was because the ACC depends on the driver's eye-hand coordination loop. Texting breaks that loop, rendering the ACC ineffective.

The research shows that texting while driving is far more dangerous than other forms of distraction. If texting and driving results in a car accident, the driver who was texting can be held legally responsible for any injuries or deaths that result.        

Source: ClaimsJournal.com, "Sixth Sense Protects Drivers Except While Texting," accessed on May 13, 2016

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