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Don't Text and Drive—Especially If You're Old

A new study shows that texting while driving becomes even more dangerous with age.
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(Photo: lord-jim/Flickr)

(Photo: lord-jim/Flickr)

If you’re driving right now, please don’t text your friends to read this article. Especially if you’re over 45 years old.

A new Wayne State University study, to be published in January, finally lays credence to an army of teenagers’ insistence that they can in fact text and drive; parents just have a misperception because they can’t. (To be very clear, nobody should text and drive.)

Associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences, Randall Commissaris, and Doreen Head, assistant professor of occupational therapy, led researchers in observing 50 participants—12 people between the ages of 18 and 24; 16 in the 25-to-34 range; nine from 35 to 44; and 13 from 45 to 59—in a driving simulator, instructed to try texting while “driving.” The faux-car, based on a 2001 Chevrolet Impala, came equipped with everything from rear view mirrors and headlights to turn signals and a radio. Don’t ever accuse those folks at Wayne State of phoning in a study.

"There is a perception that more-experienced drivers can text and drive more safely because they can manage distractions better than less-experienced drivers."

The results certainly don’t bode too well for anyone, as 50 percent of all testers veered into other lanes while texting, but more shocking was the inability of the older group to multitask: All 13 members of 46-to-59 age group crossed into other lanes during their texting conversations. Performance diminished with age; 80 percent of participants in the 35-to-44 range drifted, compared to about 40 percent of participants in the 25-to-34 range. And those gadget-obsessed teens? Fewer than 25 percent veered across lanes.

Well then kids, go ahead and text and drive! Just kidding, it’s still stupid. Please don’t. But, this ageism is part of the driving danger, Head and Commissaris argue. Parents tend to excuse their own mid-drive texting, since they tend to have considerably more driving experience. In the process, the researchers speculate, they are raising their children to associate this multitasked texting with years of experience.

"There is a perception that more-experienced drivers can text and drive more safely because they can manage distractions better than less-experienced drivers," added Head in a press release. "Not only are adults sending the wrong message ... but they are also putting themselves and others in harm's way."

Another interesting point: In a post-test survey, 60 percent of all participants said that texting while driving was more dangerous than they’d previously thought, while nobody argued that it was less dangerous. Odd that it takes a simulator to bring about that revelation—when, statistically speaking, there’s a good chance that these people had already been texting while on a real road.

Either way, there were over 3,000 deaths from texting while driving last year alone. Wait until you’re out of the car, people.