Sending text messages from your cell phone while driving can be more dangerous than driving drunk, according to a new study.
The study by the U.K.’s Transport Research Laboratory shows that people texting while driving experience a 35 percent drop in reaction times, as compared to a 21 percent drop amongst those who had consumed the legal limit of alcohol and a 12 percent drop amongst those who had consumed marijuana.
The study also found that drivers who send text messages behind the wheel were less capable of both staying in their lanes and maintaining safe distances between vehicles.
Researchers said texting drivers are distracted by removing their hands from the steering wheel to hold their phones, by trying to read small text and by trying to compose their text responses. On average, the drivers studied took 63 seconds to compose a text message – about the time it takes a car to travel a mile at highway speeds.
Researchers said the combination of factors places texting drivers and occupants of vehicles near them at greater risk than if the texting driver had consumed the legal limit of alcohol.
Another recent study provides similarly disturbing data about texting drivers. Researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute discovered that when drivers text, their risk of collision is 23 times greater than when not sending text messages.
The research shows that texting drivers typically spent the last critical seconds before a crash looking at their cell phones rather than at the road.
These studies of texting drivers come as the use of text messages has rocketed: 10 times as many text messages are sent today as were sent just three years ago, with over 110 billion texts sent every month.
What is worse, research shows that more than half of drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 admit to texting while driving, while one in five drivers overall admits to the dangerous practice.