Does text messaging while driving have a big influence on driving abilities? I think most people would agree that texting definitely does not help us drive any better. But, by consistently texting while at the wheel, many individuals act as if text messaging has a small negative effect on driving skill.

“I can drive fine while text messaging,” says the confident texter.

And that’s the problem — all of us feel capable, but none of us really are as capable as we think we are. Especially when it comes to multi-tasking well with two attention-demanding tasks.

Let’s look at what the research says…

Hosking and colleagues (2009) investigated the effects of using a cell phone on the driving performance of young novice drivers. Twenty inexperienced drivers used a cell phone to retrieve and send text messages while driving a simulator. The researchers found when text messaging drivers spent up to approximately 400% less time looking at the road as compared to time looking at the road recorded in baseline (non-text-messaging) conditions. Additionally, text messaging drivers variability in lane position increased up to approximately 50%, and missed lane changes increased 140%.

Research has shown that the risk of crashing while text messaging and driving is more than double that of talking on a cell phone.

Research conducted by Drews and colleagues (2009) looked at the influence text messaging has on simulated driving performance. Forty participants engaged in both a single task (driving) and a dual task (driving and text messaging) in a driving simulator. Participants in the driving & text messaging condition responded more slowly to the flash of brake lights and showed less forward and lateral control compared with a driving-only condition. Text-messaging drivers were also involved in more crashes than non-text messaging drivers.

Drews concluded that text messaging has a negative impact on simulated driving performance, and the negative impact appears to be more severe than that of talking on a cell phone while driving.

In an effort to combat the dangers of text messaging while driving, numerous US states have outlawed the practice. It is likely that states that have not yet banned texting while driving may do so in the near future.

President Obama on Texting While Driving

“President Obama signed an Executive Order directing federal employees not to engage in text messaging while driving government-owned vehicles; when using electronic equipment supplied by the government while driving; or while driving privately owned vehicles when they’re on official government business. The order also encourages federal contractors and others doing business with the government to adopt and enforce their own policies banning texting while driving on the job.” (Office of Public Affairs)

Opponents of text banning say that under some circumstances texting is safe and helpful. An example of safe texting would include being stuck in traffic and sending a text to say you’re going to be late for a scheduled appointment.

Results from scientific research have validated the notion that text messaging while driving is dangerous. If that text message just can’t wait, do yourself and others on the road a favor and park the car before texting.