Study Finds Experienced Drivers May Be The Most Dangerous When Texting

A new study shows that, next to younger drivers, older and more experienced drivers may be more likely to show performance impairments while texting.

In Oklahoma, drivers with learner's permits or intermediate licenses are banned from texting. However, the state hasn't yet enacted a general texting ban. Many people in Oklahoma City may take reassurance in the fact that the current ban addresses the drivers who are most likely to text and experience accidents. Alarmingly, though, new research suggests that the state's laws may overlook the drivers who are actually the most likely to cause accidents when they text.

Testing ability to text and drive

The Wayne State University study, which was published in January in Accident Analysis and Prevention, included 50 participants between the ages of 18 and 59. Researchers grouped these participants by age and self-reported prowess at texting. One group of participants, who owned smartphones and felt comfortable texting one-handed, considered themselves adept at texting. The other group described themselves as less skilled at texting.

It seems reasonable to expect that the participants who were less skilled at texting or less experienced at driving would show the worst performance impairments. Typically, more experienced drivers are better at managing distractions. Surprisingly, though, researchers found that experience did not seem to mitigate the risks associated with texting; if anything, it had the opposite effect.

Driving experience found irrelevant

The study participants were asked to respond to simple texts from researchers while performing a driving simulation. Researchers observed how often drivers left their lanes. Overall, about 50 percent of drivers who considered themselves skilled at texting departed from their lanes at some point. When broken down by age, the rate of lane excursions reveals a surprising relationship between age and performance:

  • Virtually every driver over age 45 left his or her lane at least one.
  • Maintaining proper lane positioning was also difficult for drivers between ages 35 and 44, with 80 percent veering from their lanes.
  • Just 40 percent of drivers between ages 25 and 34 departed from their lanes.
  • A mere 20 percent of drivers under age 25 encroached into other lanes.

Researchers aren't sure why experienced drivers appear to deal with texting less effectively than younger drivers, although further research may yield insights. At present, researchers speculate older drivers may look at their phones more often or take longer looks, raising the risk of performance impairments. Younger drivers also may feel more comfortable multitasking with cellphones, since they have spent larger portions of their lives using the devices.

Unfortunately, these findings suggest that current laws in Oklahoma leave drivers at considerable risk for distracted driving accidents involving experienced drivers. While preventing distraction-related accidents caused by younger drivers is important, more public attention and stricter legal measures may be necessary to address the threat of distraction among experienced drivers.

Help after Oklahoma accidents

Distracted driving is a form of negligence, regardless of the driver's age or experience. Anyone who has been hurt because of a distracted driver's careless decisions should consider consulting with a personal injury attorney. An attorney may be able to offer an accident victim advice on his or her rights and potential next steps in addressing the wrongful injury.

Keywords: distracted, texting, accident, injury