A study by the National Institutes of Health and Virginia Tech concludes that "anything that takes a driver's eyes off the road can be dangerous" — and the study indicates that is occurring about 10 percent of the time.
Among the study's findings, based on the use of video technology and in-vehicle sensors, was the risk of distracted driving was greatest for newly licensed teen drivers, who were more likely than adults to be involved in a crash or near miss while texting or engaging in tasks secondary to driving.
Drivers eat, reach for the phone, text or otherwise take their eyes off the road about 10 percent of the time they are behind the wheel, according to the study, whose co-author, Bruce Simons-Morton, said, "Our study shows these distracting practices are especially risky for novice drivers who haven't developed sound safety judgment behind the wheel."
Although experienced adults were more than twice as likely to crash or have a near miss when dialing a cell phone, the study indicates they did not have an increased risk while engaging in other tasks secondary to driving.
Novice teen drivers, on the other hand, were eight times more likely to crash or have a near miss when dialing; seven to eight times more likely when reaching for a phone or other objects; almost four times more likely when texting, and three times more likely when eating.
While the study concluded that talking on a cell phone did not increase risk among adult or teenage drivers, it suggests that licensing programs should restrict electronic use, especially among novice drivers.
The bottom line is that defensive driving has never been more important — especially during the summer when traffic increases substantially throughout the nation as families take to the road for vacations.