Austin (US): New findings from a Texas study show texting while driving is more dangerous than previously thought.
   
Reading or writing a text message behind the wheel can more than double a driver's reaction time, according to a study released by the Texas Transportation Institute.
   
"Our findings suggest that response times are even slower than what we originally thought," said Christine Yager, a TTI researcher, who managed the study.
   
"Texting while driving basically doubles a driver's reaction time and makes the driver less able to respond to sudden roadway dangers, if a vehicle were to make a sudden stop in front of them or if a child was to run across the road."
   
Reaction times slowed from one to two seconds with no texting activity, to three to four seconds while texting, the study found. The study found very little difference in
response times between a driver composing a message and reading one.
   
Researchers studied 42 drivers between the ages of 16 and 54 on a test-track driving course in vehicles equipped with a flashing light and a monitoring system.
   
To put the findings in context, Yager said drivers going 48 kph travel 220 feet in five seconds. At 96.5 kph (60 mph), a driver covers 440 feet in five seconds, she said.
   
"If you're on a freeway where the speed limit is 60 in rush hour and a vehicle suddenly stops in front of you, that's not enough time to react if your eyes are glanced down at your phone," Yager said.
   
Drivers in the study were more than 11 times more likely to miss the flashing light altogether when they were texting.
   
Researchers say the study is the first published work in the US to examine texting while driving in actual vehicles rather than in simulators.
   
Studies have been confined to simulators in the past for safety concerns. The researchers said 40 drivers is considered by the research community to be an acceptable number to produce meaningful findings in this type of study; other similar studies quoted by the report used as few as 20 drivers.
   
Texting and driving has already been deemed dangerous, with 34 US states adopting texting and driving bans, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
   
The Texas Legislature approved a texting ban earlier this year, but Gov Rick Perry vetoed the measure, calling it an "overreach" and a "government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults." Texas law does ban cellphone use in school zones and includes restrictions for drivers under the age of 18.

(Agencies)