Texting behind the wheel is like driving drunk

Researchers in Australia show (unsurprising) dangers of using mobile phones while driving

Image credit: Flickr/VERSAGEEK

An experiment by scientists in Australia shows that sending text messages, or even using a hands-free device, impairs motorists in a way similar to driving drunk. The experiment was conducted by researchers from several Australian universities in collaboration with the University of Barcelona. A dozen college students participated in the experiment, which measured their reaction capacity in a simulated driving test. Some of the volunteers took the test after drinking alcohol, while others used a mobile phone while "driving." From Agencia SINC:

By comparing the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) with the effects of mobile phone usage, researchers saw that when the telephone conversation required high cognitive demand or when answering a text message, the BAC test was above legal limits in Spain (0.5 gram/litre). Headphones and a microphone were used to simulate the handsfree effect.

"When the conversation using the handsfree was simple, the effects were comparable to a BAC level of 0.04 g/l, which is below the legal limit of 0.5 g/l in countries like Spain and Australia. However, when more attention was required, their alcohol level analogue shot up to 0.7 g/l, which is above the legal limit in both countries yet below in other countries, like the USA or the UK where up to 0.8 g/l is allowed. When answering text messages, the rate stood at 1 g/l, which is illegal in any of all of these countries," said Sumie Leung Shuk Man, co-author of the study published in the Traffic Injury Prevention.

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