Texting behind the wheel as dangerous as drunk driving

Sending text messages while driving is as dangerous as being above the legal alcohol limit, a new study has said. Scientists from various Australian universities in collaboration with the University of Barcelona have compared the effects of mobile use while driving with the effects of alcohol using a simulation.

The Australian universities of Wollongong, Victoria, Swinburne of Technology, the Institute for breathing and sleep and the University of Barcelona measured the reaction capacity behind the wheel of twelve healthy volunteers who participated in a driving simulation test lasting two days, each a week apart. On the one hand, they took the test having consumed alcohol, and on the other, while using the mobile telephone. Habitual drinkers and those who had never consumed alcohol before the test were not allowed to participate.

“We conducted the study in Australia and the participants, who were volunteer students holding a driving licence, had to keep their position in the centre of the left lane on the screen at a speed of between 60 and 80 kilometres per hour, breaking every time a lorry appeared,” Sumie Leung Shuk Man, co-author of the study, and researcher at Barcelona said.

By comparing the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) with the effects of mobile phone usage, they saw that when the telephone conversation required high cognitive demand or when answering a text message, the BAC test was above legal limits in Spain (0.5 gram/litre).

“Our results suggest that the use of handsfree devices could also put drivers at risk. Although they should be allowed, they require more research to determine how they should be regulated and, of course, the thorough knowledge that national authorities should have regarding their pros and cons,” Shuk Man said.

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