|You are eight times more likely to crash, or nearly crash when|
dialing your phone if you're a novice driver - this new study
Researchers collected 12-18 months of driving data from 42 newly licensed teenaged drivers from southwestern Virginia, as well as from 109 more experienced motorists from Washington, all driving cars that had been outfitted with cameras, accelerometers, and GPS devices.
A team of analysts evaluated the records for evidence of a crash, defined as any physical contact with another object, or a near-crash, defined as a last-minute maneuver that challenged the physical limitations of the vehicle to avoid a collision. These "near-crashes," the study authors write, are reliable surrogates for crashes. They then correlated the car movements with the camera footage of the drivers, evaluating them for actions like talking on a phone, dialing a phone, looking out the window, or adjusting their radio.
Among the experienced drivers, dialing a cellphone was the only activity that increased the risk of a crash or near-crash —it made a collision 2.49 times more likely.
One reason for the elevated risk is that our brains are not actually designed for multitasking — most people can only focus on one activity at a time. More teens now die from texting while driving than from drinking and driving.
Here's a look at the odds breakdown for each of the activities studied:
If texting and Web browsing seem surprisingly benign on this list, that might be because the younger drivers were tracked between 2006 and 2008, before smartphones arrived on the scene and prompted a rise in texting and emailing.
Still, the elevated odds of crashing while texting—3.87—isn't worth the risk.