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Mature motorists worse at texting while driving

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

In a surprising finding, researchers have found that older, more mature motorists - who typically are better drivers in many circumstances - are much worse than their younger counterparts when texting while driving.

An interdisciplinary research team at the Wayne State University explored the relationship between texting, driving performance and age.

Researchers said the results were surprising because they contradict those of other studies examining the connection between age and distracted driving.

"Generally, people believe that younger drivers are more easily distracted and therefore would be more susceptible to the dangers of texting and driving," said Randall Commissaris, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences.

"However, our study - which included drivers ranging in age from 18 to 59 - demonstrated just the opposite. Although texting while driving had a negative impact on drivers of all ages, younger drivers were less distracted by texting, and older drivers' performance was much worse because of their texting," said Commissaris.

Findings were based on the observation of participants who demonstrated proficiency at texting with one hand, owned smartphones and indicated they were prolific texters.

On average, about 50 per cent of all subjects had lane excursions - or crossed from one lane to another - while texting.

But what shocked the researchers most was that as the age of drivers increased, so did the percentage of lane excursions.

One hundred per cent of drivers who were between 45 and 59 years old made lane excursions while texting as compared to about 80 per cent of subjects between 35 and 44, almost 40 per cent of participants between 25 and 34, and nearly 25 per cent of drivers between 18 and 24.

"There is a perception that more-experienced drivers can text and drive more safely because they can manage distractions better than less-experienced drivers," said Doreen Head, assistant professor of occupational therapy.

"Not only are adults sending the wrong message because they are telling young people to do as they say, not as they do, but they are also putting themselves and others in harm's way," said Head.

The study was published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.

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First Published: Sat, December 20 2014. 11:30 IST
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