Older adults are the worst at texting and driving
Popular public service campaigns like “It Can Wait” and “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” aim their message at millennials, but they may be missing a key group of adults who are at a greater risk for crashing while texting and driving.
Study leaders from Wayne State University in Detroit found that surprisingly older, more mature motorists are much worse than their younger counterparts when texting while driving. The findings contradicted earlier studies that linked younger people to more accidents involving 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, in a statement. “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.”
The study examined 18 – 59 year olds and the disruptive effects of texting on simulated driving behavior. While “driving” the simulator, motorists were engaged in a series of brief conversations with a member of the research team. The researchers would tally the number of occurrences of lane excursions, which included any time the center of the vehicle moved outside the directed driving lane like into oncoming traffic or on the shoulder of the road.
The results were startling. Nearly 50 percent of all subjects had lane excursions, or crossed from one lane to another, while texting. Even more surprising was that as age increased, so did the incidences of erratic driving.
A whopping 100 percent of drivers who were between 45 and 59 years old made lane excursions while texting as compared to about 80 percent of drivers between 35 and 44 years old.
The percentage decreased with drivers between the ages of 25 and 34 years old at 40 percent. Drivers between 18 and 24 were nearly 25 percent.
Study leaders theorized that older drivers spend more of their time looking at their cell phones and not on the road, which may be the cause of their impaired driving. Another speculation is that older drivers might have less proficiency to manage the cognitive demands of multitasking.
“Future studies monitoring eye glances during texting in older and younger drivers will be useful to test these various hypotheses,” Commissaris said.
Based on the study, the data suggests that ‘no texting while driving’ education and public service messages need to be continued, and they should expand to target older drivers, as well.
Currently, there are fourteen states that prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. Illinois is currently one of the states that only allows hands-free technology such as speakerphones, Bluetooth, and handsets.
“My message to everyone is to save the texting for when you arrive,” he says. “You could be saving a life.”
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