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Texting is deadly, even when it’s hands-free

By Arthur Elk

In 2012, more than 6 billion texts were sent every day. Many of those were probably sent by people who were behind the wheel of a vehicle. That’s too many distracted drivers. In 2011, 3,331 people were killed and 387,000 injured in distracted-driving crashes.

Most of us probably think that using hands-free texting is a safer way to text while driving. It seems like it should be, but that may not be true.

In a new study by the Texas Transportation Institute, 43 drivers were tested on a closed road course using a 2009 Ford Explorer. They each drove four times for about 10 minutes at 30 mph while: not texting at all, texting manually, texting with the voice-to-text app on the iPhone, and texting with the Android smartphone voice-to-text app.

Each driver was asked to complete five text-messaging tasks: send one, read and reply to three, and simply read one. The texts were provided in a short script.

The study found that driver response times were slower no matter which method of texting was used. Drivers took about twice as long to react as when they weren’t texting and spent less time looking at the road, the study says. Surprisingly, driver performance was roughly the same with both methods of texting, although manual texting actually required slightly less time than using voice-to-text.

No matter what method of texting you use, you are distracted from what you should be focused on: the road and other drivers around you. Don’t become just another statistic. Make smart choices. That text message that seems so important can wait until you are stopped. No text message is worth risking your life or the life of others around you.