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Distracted Driving

May 18, 2016

Driving while texting disrupts hand-eye coordination with the brain, unlike other distractions.

Transcript

MALCOLM DCOSTA

One of the 59 volunteers in a distracted driving study by the University of Houston and Texas A&M Transportation Institute sits in a high-fidelity driving simulator. (Malcolm Dcosta)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

How texting saps focus. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Overall, humans are pretty good drivers, even when we’re stressed out.

ROBERT WUNDERLICH (Texas Transportation Institute):

We’ve developed some mechanisms over our evolution that help us compensate when we’re doing one task but something else takes our attention.

HIRSHON:

But texting short-circuits this ability, according to Robert Wunderlich, director of the Texas A&M Center for Transportation Safety. He and his colleagues write in Scientific Reports that when volunteers were forced to concentrate on math problems or stressful emotional issues during a simulated driving exercise, their brains automatically corrected for minor mistakes.

WUNDERLICH:

The result is that the car goes straight.

HIRSHON:

But texting led to swerving in and out of lanes.

WUNDERLICH:

Texting overwhelms our capability to automatically compensate for dividing our attention.

HIRSHON:

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.