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Jan 05, 2015 07:29 PM EST

Seasoned Drivers Are Worst at Texting and Driving


New research from Wayne State University suggests that older or more mature drivers -- who typically are better drivers in many circumstances -- are much worse than their younger counterparts when texting while driving.

"Generally, people believe that younger drivers are more easily distracted and therefore would be more susceptible to the dangers of texting and driving," researcher Randall Commissaris said in a statement. "However, our study -- which included drivers ranging in age from 18 to 59 -- demonstrated just the opposite. Although texting while driving had a negative impact on drivers of all ages, younger drivers were less distracted by texting, and older drivers' performance was much worse because of their texting."

The findings were based on the observation of participants who demonstrated proficiency at texting with one hand, owned smartphones and indicated they were prolific texters. On average, about 50 percent of all subjects had lane excursions -- or crossed from one lane to another -- while texting.

But what shocked researchers the most was that as the age of drivers increased, so did the percentage of lane excursions. One hundred percent of drivers who were between 45 and 59 years old made lane excursions while texting as compared to about 80 percent of subjects between 35 and 44, almost 40 percent of participants between 25 and 34, and nearly 25 percent of drivers between 18 and 24.

"There is a perception that more-experienced drivers can text and drive more safely because they can manage distractions better than less-experienced drivers," researcher Doreen Head said in a statement.

Commissaris said it is possible that older drivers are more distracted by texting while driving because they are less able to manage the cognitive demands of multitasking.

Future studies monitoring eye glances during texting in older and younger drivers will be useful to test these various hypotheses.

The findings are detailed in the January 2015 issue of Accident Analysis and Prevention.

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