BEACON TRANSCRIPT – According to a new study, the worst thing to do while driving is texting. Distractions are everywhere, and people have been known to turn their backs on the road ahead and grab things from the back seat. Women often do their make-up while driving. Yet none of these, and many other distracting actions, have the same effect on the brain as texting.
The researchers from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and the University of Houston say that drivers have a sixth sense while behind the wheel. This keeps them safe even if they are absent-minded while driving. However, in the case of texting and driving, that sixth sense is not present.
The study involved 59 individuals that had to drive for four hours on the same road but in different conditions. In the normal state, drivers had absolutely no distractions, and could focus only on the road. In another condition, they were asked questions while driving. In a third instance, they had to write text messages. Both the second and third condition made the drivers shakier behind the wheel, but texting had a far more pronounced influence on the quality of driving. When texting, people had the tendency to deviate from the trajectory. Even the subjects who had to answer to math problems or questions that triggered an emotional response drove more carefully than those who texted while driving. According to a theory, this is the result of the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex, that corrects errors in drivers that have been distracted in some way. But it was found that while texting, the ACC simply does not work. The anterior cingulate cortex needs the eye-hand coordination loop. In the case of texting, that loop is broken, so drivers can end up steering off-course.
These findings have made researchers conclude that the worst thing to do while driving is texting.
Researchers are now looking into a way to correct erratic driving. The team behind the study wants to develop a car monitoring system that can sense if the person behind the wheel is distracted and automatically intervene to stabilize the course of driving.
This study is yet another to state the same obvious facts, that texting while driving is extremely dangerous, even to the point of being deadly. Scientists urge people to keep their phone hidden from sight while driving, just to avoid being tempted to use it. But if it is absolutely necessary to get in touch with someone, use the hands-free option, which is safer than actually holding the phone.
IMAGE SOURCE: Slate Magazine