Mobile Phone Use Triples Drivers' Crash Risk

Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study shows visual-manual tasks such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting triple crash risk

A new Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) driving study shows activities associated with use of hand-held phones and other portable devices – such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting – tripled drivers’ risk of getting into a crash.

The study, entitled The Impact of Hand-Held and Hands-Free Cell Phone Use on Driving Performance and Safety Critical Event Risk, was conducted under a contract from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Findings include:

  • Text messaging, browsing and dialing resulted in the longest duration of drivers taking their eyes off the road
  • Text messaging increased the risk of a crash or near-crash by two times and resulted in drivers taking their eyes off the road for an average of 23 seconds
  • Activities performed when completing a phone call (reaching for a phone, looking up a contact and dialing the number) increased crash risk by three times
  • There is no direct increased crash risk from the specific act of talking on a cell phone. However, visual-manual tasks (locating the phone, looking at the phone and touching the phone) are always involved when using a hand-held cell phone. This makes the overall use of a hand-held cell phone riskier when driving.
  • Even portable hands-free and vehicle-integrated hands-free cell phone use involved visual-manual tasks at least half of the time, which is associated with a greater crash risk.

Learn more about VTTI’s study on the impact of cell-phone use on driving.