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Last Modified: January 4, 2023

4 Types of People with a Better Reaction Time than a Texting Driver

Published on December 19, 2012 • Last updated January 4, 2023 by Ken Christensen
Topics: Texting & Driving

Elderly woman crossing the street

Moral balancing is defined by the National Center for Biotechnology Information as “the effect of prior behavior on decision in moral conflict.” That is, if someone does something they perceive as morally outstanding, they will more easily justify committing small misdemeanors on the belief that they’ve earned the right to do so. Moral balancing occasionally extends to what other people do, as well:  When others are behaving poorly, it’s easier to let a few things slide.

This might explain the frequency of texting accidents, even though the risks involved in texting and driving are so intuitive: As long as it isn’t the worst thing you can do, it may be permitted sometimes. However, those depending on the moral inferiority of other behaviors might be surprised to learn that there is almost nothing more injurious to driving ability than texting, and that, therefore, no amount of moral finagling can excuse it. Following is a list of practices commonly believed to be more irresponsible than texting and driving which are not, in fact, on par with it in terms of likelihood to court disaster:

1. The elderly

A very common and very unfair misconception prevails that elderly drivers pose a serious risk to others on the road, primarily because their reaction time is generally assumed to grow longer with age. While studies have shown that older drivers are about 0.2-0.3 seconds slower than younger motorists, data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that they compensate for this by being extra vigilant—until drivers reach the age of 85 or older, they don’t cause significantly more crashes than drivers in any other age group (and in fact, they seem to be better drivers than those between the ages of 16 and 34). Texting drivers looking to deflect attention from their misdeeds should look elsewhere.

2. The intoxicated

An independent study conducted by Car and Driver magazine compared two staff members’ reaction times while driving alert and unimpaired to their reaction times when tipsy, reading a text, and typing out a text. At 70 miles per hour, the average baseline reaction time was 0.56 seconds, amounting to a 4 feet between the signal to stop and the actual halt.  When the drivers were intoxicated, their average reaction time was 0.6 seconds—a significant difference given the speed of the vehicle, but still surprisingly small.

3. The phone conversationalists

The extra distance traveled was only slightly larger than it was at the baseline. However, when the drivers read texts, their extra distance traveled averaged 36 feet; and this increased to a staggering 70 feet when they were texting.  Texting and driving is not just slightly worse than driving drunk—it’s 50-110% worse. While cell phone use of any kind is not recommended, talking or listening into a handheld device is less than half as dangerous as texting. Using a phone in the conventional manner increases the chance of an accident 1.3 times, whereas activities involving the keypad increase the risk 2.8 times. This may be because talking into the telephone, while quite distracting, does not actually remove one’s gaze from the road ahead or require any complex activity on the part of the hands.  Whatever the case, texting carries considerably more risk.

4. The stoned

To put it bluntly, even smoking pot is less detrimental to one’s ability to drive than texting. While cannabis decreases reaction time by 26.5%, texting does so by 37.4%. (What’s more, the person who texts and drives lacks the excuse that they were too far under the influence to realize they were impaired…assuming, of course, that they are not texting under the influence.) Texting accidents are not only more probable; they are less justifiable.

Texting accidents are too strong a risk to allow for any bargaining—the safety of others on the road depends on a collective willingness and capacity to leave the phone alone while driving. For those who have been injured in texting accidents, there is help in the form of legal counsel when other avenues have been exhausted, and expenses are mounting. To air your grievances and ask questions concerning your next move following a texting accident, call personal injury lawyers Good Guys Injury Law for a free initial consultation at (801) 506-0800.

Image courtesy: geralt 

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