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Study: More Experienced Drivers are the Most Distracted by Texting

New research suggests that more experienced drivers are the least proficient at managing the distraction associated with texting while driving.

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    Today it's not uncommon to see headlines about young drivers who caused accidents while texting. Texting greatly raises the risk of various accidents, from rear-end collisions to single-car crashes. Still, many people in Tavares may believe texting is only a serious threat among younger drivers, since they text more often and lack the experience to effectively handle the distraction. Surprisingly, though, new research suggests that texting may be much more dangerous for experienced drivers.

    Age and texting risk

    The Wayne State University study included 50 participants, whose ages ranged from 18 to 59. Half of the participants reported that they owned smartphones, could text with one hand and considered themselves skilled at texting. The others stated that they texted less frequently. All of the participants performed a driving simulation while texting answers to simple questions from the researchers.

    During the simulation, all of the drivers who were over the age of 45 and less skilled at texting departed from their lanes at least once. Only 20 percent of the drivers between ages 35 and 44 were able to stay in their lanes while texting. Surprisingly, the young drivers showed the best performance: only 40 percent of the drivers between ages 25 and 34 left their lanes, and just 25 percent of the youngest drivers did.

    Researchers caution that these findings don't indicate that younger drivers can safely text while they are behind the wheel. Overall, half of the drivers who considered themselves skilled at texting still veered from their lanes during the simulation. However, the results do suggest that texting while driving poses an underappreciated danger for older drivers.

    A distinct distraction

    Researchers aren't sure why experienced drivers, who tend to be better at managing distractions, appear worse at driving while they are texting. Future studies will explore this question, but at present, researchers cite the following possible explanations:

    Mature drivers stare at their phones for longer intervals while composing and reading texts.
    Older drivers must look down at their phones more frequently to read and write texts.
    Experienced drivers are less accustomed to using cellphones while performing other tasks, since they did not grow up with the devices.
    Whatever the underlying reason, this study suggests that the distraction texting creates is relatively different than other distractions and markedly more dangerous for experienced drivers.

    Help for Florida texting accidents

    Accidents involving texting drivers of all ages remain a serious threat in Florida. The Tampa Bay Times reports that enforcement of the state's secondary ban on texting has been fairly limited, since authorities can only cite drivers who have also violated a primary traffic law. Unless this law is strengthened, many negligent drivers may continue texting while driving, since they know that citations and sanctions are unlikely.

    People who have been injured because other drivers were texting or otherwise distracted may have legal recourse. If an inattentive driver is found negligent, an accident victim may be entitled to damages for medical expenses, wage loss and more. Anyone who has been hurt in a distracted driving accident should consider speaking to an attorney about the available legal options.

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