Motorists who insist on texting while driving switch off a special safety sixth sense in their brains, a new study shows.
This safety “autopilot” usually stops distracted drivers from putting themselves at risk. But sending and reading SMS messages “wreaks havoc” with this intuition, according to US scientists.
Ioannis Pavlidis, from Texas-based Houston University, led the research, which studied 59 volunteer drivers.
Dr. Pavlidis put them on a special simulated road and asked them to “drive” while colleagues tried to distract them. The results indicate that dealing with texts is particularly dangerous for drivers.
Drivers advised to ignore phone
Drivers should ignore their phone while behind the wheel, the scientists suggest.
They analysed the following three different driver distractions – texting trivialities, emotionally charged questions, and mentally challenging questions.
Each distraction made volunteers’ wheel control “jittery”. But texting alone caused motorists to show substantial signs of risky driving and swaying between lanes.
The brain’s “error correction” in people’s anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) would normally help rescue them from a fraught situation. It compensates strong jitters on drivers’ right-hand side with matching the convulsions on the left-hand side and vice-versa. This does not happen with distracting SMS messages, meaning nervous steering remains uncorrected.
Dr. Pavlidis says texting “wreaks havoc” with drivers’ sixth senses, making it a very risky undertaking. He says the advance of self-driving cars could one day make this problem a thing of the past.
Meanwhile, the scientist says his team are now exploring the possibility of developing a vehicle system which could record jittery steering and other exterior driving behaviours.
Phone use can lead to car accidents
The RAC Foundation’s Steve Gooding says the new study endorses similar work it carried out, linking phones to raised risk of car accidents.
Director Mr Gooding says that text-driving dulls a motorist’s reaction times by more than 33%. This is more than being influenced by dope or Britain’s lawful drink-drive limit.
Mr Gooding says 24 deaths occurred during 2014 with mobile phone-related driver distraction being at least a contributory element.
Date Published: May 28, 2016
Author: Jonathan Brown