No such thing as safe text18 Sep 2008

Inability to hold lane position: participants’ tendency to drift out of their lane while trying to write a text increased by 91.4% compared to a “control drive” where they were concentrating on the driving task. In busy dual carriageways and motorways, drifting out of position is a serious hazard, while in a town centre or rural road losing position might result in a collision with a pedestrian, cyclist or motorcyclist.

TRL conclude: “the combination of increased mental workload required to write a text message, the control impairment caused by the physical act of holding the phone, and the visual impairment caused by continually shifting visual orientation between the phone display and the road ahead resulted in significantly impaired ability to maintain safe road position.”

Professor Stephen Glaister, Director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The participants in this study were almost unanimous in their view that drink driving was the most dangerous action on the road. Yet this research clearly shows that a motorist who is texting is significantly more impaired than a motorist at the legal limit for alcohol. No responsible motorist would drink and drive. We need to ensure that text devotees understand that texting is one of the most hazardous things that can be done while in charge of a motor car.”

Dr Nick Reed, Senior Human Factors Researcher at TRL, said: “This research demonstrates how dangerous it is to drive and text. When texting, drivers are distracted by taking their hand off the wheel to use their phone, by trying to read small text on the phone display, and by thinking about how to write their message. This combination of factors resulted in the impairments to reaction time and vehicle control that place the driver at a greater risk than having consumed alcohol to the legal limit for driving.”


* RAC Foundation poll of 2002 Facebook users.

** Mobile Data Association report, February 2008.

*** Full details of the comparative impact of different impairments: