Ann Arbor, Michigan – A road test conducted by Car and Driver magazine has found that reaction times were longer for drivers who were text messaging than for those who were legally impaired.

Previous studies on the effects of text messaging were conducted using simulators, but Car and Driver conducted its study in a real car being driven, and compared the results to the effects of drunk driving on the same day and under the exact same conditions. The focus of the test was solely on the driver’s reaction time.

The driving was done in a straight line on an 11,800-foot (3,596 metre) runaway, using devices with full QWERTY keypads. Both drivers, aged 22 and 37, were familiar with text messaging.

After conducting the texting tests on both drivers at 35 and 70 mph (56 and 112 km/h), the test subjects then drank alcohol until they reached the legal driving limit of 0.08 per cent blood alcohol content. They ran the identical test without any texting distractions. The results showed that even with a straight road and no road signals, pedestrians or traffic, the texting results were even worse than the impaired driving results.

At 35 mph, the 22-year-old driver had a reaction time of 0.45 second with no distractions. It worsened to 0.57 while reading a text, improved to 0.52 while writing a text, and was 0.46 when he was impaired by alcohol. At 70 mph, he had 0.39 with no distractions; his reaction time was 0.48 while texting, and 0.50 for both reading a message and while impaired.

At 35 mph, the 37-year-old driver had a reaction time of 0.57 seconds with no distractions. While texting, his response time was 1.36 seconds, and after drinking, it was 0.64 seconds. At 70 mph, his base performance was 0.56 seconds, compared to 0.68 while writing a text message, and 0.60 when intoxicated. He drove for more than 4 seconds before looking up while reading a text message at 35 mph, and over 3 and a half seconds while texting at 70 mph; he also drifted out of his lane.

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