A sophisticated, real-world study confirms that dialing, texting or reaching for a cellphone while driving raises the risk of a crash or near-miss, especially for younger drivers.
This one did not distinguish between handheld and hands-free devices – a major weakness.
Earlier work with simulators, test-tracks and cellphone records suggests that risky driving increases when people are on cellphones, especially teens. For the new study, researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute installed video cameras, global positioning systems, lane trackers, gadgets to measure speed and acceleration, and other sensors in the cars of 42 newly licensed drivers 16 or 17 years old, and 109 adults with an average of 20 years behind the wheel.
The risk of a crash or near-miss among young drivers increased more than sevenfold if they were dialing or reaching for a cellphone and fourfold if they were sending or receiving a text message.
Among older drivers, only dialing a cellphone increased the chances of a crash or near miss. Engaging in distractions increased as time went on among novice drivers but not among experienced ones. The National Institutes of Health and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration paid for the research.
The study methods and tools may have underestimated risks because video cameras capture wandering eyes but can’t measure cognitive distraction, he said.

At least 12 states ban the use of hand-held cellphones while driving and 41 ban text messaging. Comments are posted from website users like you, and do not always reflect the views of this station.
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A red octogon shapped sign reading Stop Texting to illustrate the danger of text messaging while in a car and causing accidents from distracted driving.

You must have JavaScript enabled in your browser to utilize the functionality of this website. But the research also produced a surprise: Simply talking on the phone did not prove dangerous, as it has in other studies. The 15-to-20-year-old age group accounts for 6 percent of all drivers but 10 percent of traffic deaths and 14 percent of police-reported crashes with injuries.
The risk also rose if they were reaching for something other than a phone, looking at a roadside object or eating. However, that study began before texting became more common, so researchers don’t know if it is as dangerous for them as it is for teens.
All cellphone use is banned by 37 states for novice or teen drivers, says the National Conference of State Legislatures, citing information from the Governor’s Highway Safety Administration.
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