Distracted driving is risky at best and fatal at worst, yet drivers regularly ignore warnings by chowing down on a cheese burger or chatting on their cell phones.
The second one might not matter much according to a study released Tuesday by the New England Journal of Medicine. It finds that dialing or typing on a a cell phone increases the risk of a crash among all drivers, but talking on a phone doesn’t specifically cause problems. The study examined reaching for a cell phone, texting, reaching for an object other than a cell phone, looking at a roadside object, and eating, all of which were associated with an increased crash risk in new drivers.
Dialing on a cell phone was the only behavior that showed an increased risk with experienced drivers, although the study also says data was collected before the widespread use of text messaging, implying that it would also pose an increased risk.
Young drivers tended to adopt riskier behavior a few months after receiving their license, which is especially risky because safety judgement develops over a long period of time, the study’s co-author Bruce Simons-Morton told NPR. Novice drivers are also more prone to engaging in secondary tasks while driving.
In the study, researchers installed cameras into test subject cars and used sensors to determine when someone was involved in either a crash or near crash. Analysts watched what the drivers were doing at the time of the incident to determine risk.