What we are learning about cell phones, texting and distracted driving.

One of the major hurdles in understanding distracted driving is how to study the connection between cell phone use and car accidents, and between texting while driving and car accidents. It is very easy for a driver to hide a cell phone after an accident. Particularly in the dark, witnesses are not easily able to see a driver using a cell phone before an accident.

Research into distracted driving has had challenges. In Australia, epidemiological studies have been conducted where the traffic researchers are able to subpoena emergency room car accident victims' cell phone records. Auto accident researchers in Canada also have the ability to conduct this kind of study into understanding the incidence of cell phone use or texting while driving and auto accidents. However, in the USA, because of privacy laws, these kinds of studies are not possible for auto accident researchers to conduct. In addition, police officers by routine do not necessarily collect the information of whether or not the driver or drivers were talking on a cell phone or texting.

The NHTSA's own research into the frequency of cell phone use or texting while driving used "observers" at an intersection watching for the use of cell phone talking and texting drivers. The NHTSA also only sampled one thousand cars with this visible-observer research method.

when the Truck drivers texted, their auto accident risk was 23 times greater than when not texting

Virginia Tech Transportation Institute conducted a study using advanced video and electronic information capturing devices. Long haul truck drivers were videoed for eighteen months driving their big rigs across the country. Truck drivers use in-cab computers to stay in touch with their companies and often text for maps routes and messages while driving. The study, "found that when the drivers texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater than when not texting." [1] The researchers watched the 18 months of video collected in this research and counted statistical data on things like the time that the truck driver's eyes were off the road because they were looking at the computer screen.

In the moments before a crash or near crash, drivers typically spent nearly five seconds looking at their devices — enough time at typical highway speeds to cover more than the length of a football field. Even though trucks take longer to stop and are less maneuverable than cars, the findings generally applied to all drivers, who tend to exhibit the same behaviors as the more than 100 truckers studied, the researchers said. [1]

University of Utah Applied Cognition Lab researcher David Strayer uses "clinical study methodologies to investigated cell phone and driving as well as texting while driving.

Over the last decade, the University of Utah has been studying driver distraction to better understand how and why people can become overloaded while multi-tasking. We use sophisticated equipment, including driving simulators, eye trackers, and we also measure brain activity (electroencephalography) and use neuroimaging technology (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to understand the cognitive neuroscience of driver distraction. [2]

One of Strayer's infamous studies compared the car accident risk while texting to drunk driving with the blood alcohol level of .08% and yes, his research showed texting is more dangerous than drunk driving.

The Virginia Tech video study of real life truck drivers texting contained much more alarming data than previous lab research using simulators had estimated. "David Strayer [...] offered two explanations for the simulator's showing lower risks than the Virginia study. Trucks are tougher to maneuver and stop, he noted, and the college students in his study might be somewhat better at multitasking " [1]

Texting takes our eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds. At 55 mph,that's driving the length of a football field - completely blind. VTTI's research shows that text messaging had the longest duration of eyes-off-road time (4.6-second over a six-second interval). This equates to a driver traveling the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour without looking at the roadway. [3]

Virginia Tech Transportation Institute also conducted a naturalistic video study of 100 regular road use cars. In the study, there were primary drivers of the cars which were studied as well as the additional drivers that drove those vehicles. The vehicles in the study were again equipped with an unobtrusive video camera recording regular day-to-day driving. Among the striking evidence the researchers published, they found that in rear end collisions, "Visual inattention was a contributing factor for 93 percent of rear-end striking crashes." [4] In addition, the researchers found that, "In 86 percent of rear-end-striking crashes, the headway at the onset of the event was greater than 2.0 seconds." [4] The commonality the researchers found about car accident collisions was that:

Nearly 80 percent of all crashes and 65 percent of all near-crashes involved driver inattention (due to distraction, fatigue, or just looking away) just prior to (i.e., within 3 seconds) the onset of the conflict. [4]

San Diego Personal Injury Attorney Dean A. Goetz fights every step of the way for his clients.

If you have been in an accident and you believe the driver of the car or truck was a distracted driver either texting or on their cell phone please contact me as soon as possible for a free one-on-one legal consultation.While in most every personal injury case it is best to contact and retain a personal injury attorney as soon as possible so that your legal rights are protected, in the incidence of a distracted driver, time is of the essence in order to see if we can identify witnesses to your accident, including other drivers on the road, who may have viewed the at-fault driver. I go the extra mile for my clients and I have demonstrated results fighting for seriously injured people by identifying important details which preserved their case and settlement.


1. New York Times
In Study, Texting Lifts Crash Risk by Large Margin
By MATT RICHTEL Published: July 27, 2009

2. Dr. David Strayer University of Utah Applied Cognition Lab
Applied Cognition Lab

3. Virginia Tech Transportation Institute
New data from Virginia Tech Transportation Institute provides insight into cell phone use and driving distraction

4. Virginia Tech street car driving research - 100-Car Naturalistic Study

Learn More

If you are interested in this subject of distracted driving research, All State has a great list of research resources and media articles which are focused on preventing teen distracted driving.

Teen agers however are not the only members of American society who might still regularly text. Police cars are usually equipped with MDT or MDC - mobile data terminal, or mobile data computer - which is often a Panasonic Tough Book TItanium shell computer which was actually marketed for this purpose. Emergency response drivers also use MDT's such as firetrucks and ambulence drivers. Considering that in 2010 the most common cause of on duty police officer deaths in the USA was auto accidents, distracted driving is a serious problem for all pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycle riders, and car drivers in the USA.