Distracted Driving, Texting and Driving

Effects of texting on driving are actually worse for older drivers


Teenagers use text messaging more than any other mode of communication. In an article published by the American Psychological Association, “The Role of Compulsive Texting in Adolescents’ Academic Functioning“, the authors found that many teenage texters had a lot in common with compulsive gamblers, including losing sleep because of texting, problems cutting back on texting and lying to cover up the amount of time they spent texting. Compulsivity is more than just the number of texts, and lead author Kelly M. Lister-Landman from the Delaware County Community College poses vexing questions….. What is a teen’s relationship with phone use where they might feel anxiety when withdrawing from its use?  Do they feel compelled to look at it at all times, rather than just answering texts they get?

A different study from Wayne State University shows that texting and driving can be even more dangerous for older and experienced drivers. “The effects of texting on driving performance and the influence of driver age” demonstrates that for highly skilled texters, the effects of texting on driving are actually worse for older drivers. The study was conducted with a group of 50 people between 18 and 59 years old who were in driving simulators and answered simple text messages researchers sent to their phones. Half of the subjects were highly-skilled texters — people who said they texted a lot, could text one-handed and owned smartphones — who veered into other lanes in the simulator when reading or sending texts. The older, prolific texters did especially bad: all of the 45- to 59-year-olds and 80 percent of 35- to 44-year-olds veered into other lanes. Meanwhile, about 40 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds and about 25 percent of 18- to 24- year-olds began crossing lanes while texting. The study confirmed what researchers have stated, that there is something unique to the distraction of texting that makes older and more mature drivers worse at it, but they are not sure why this age difference exists. Perhaps older drivers take more and longer glances at their phones when composing and reading messages; maybe older drivers can’t manage technological multitasking in the same way as young people who were born and raised in the age of technology. It could also be a combination of these and other factors.

According to the Pew Research Center, some 73% of adult cell owners use the text messaging function on their phone at least occasionally. Young adults are the most active users of text messaging, with 95% of 18-29 year olds using the text messaging feature on their phones. These users send or receive an average of 87.7 text messages on a normal day (with the median user in this age group sending or receiving 40 text messages per day).

Given the increasing frequency of texting while driving within virtually all age groups, these data suggest that ‘no texting while driving’ education and public service messages need to be continued, and they should be expanded to target older drivers as well.


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