In a new study, older adults showed the worst impairment while texting and driving; this suggests that novice-only texting bans may leave drivers in danger.

Texting while driving is a dangerous activity for virtually anyone, as most people in Austin understand. Still, many people think texting is especially dangerous for younger drivers, who are less prepared to effectively handle distractions. Laws like the state's current texting ban, which only targets school bus drivers and drivers under age 18, reflect this widespread belief.

New research, however, indicates that these laws may overlook one of the most dangerous groups of distracted drivers. A recent study suggests that texting is no less risky for older or experienced drivers. Surprisingly, texting may be even more mentally demanding, and therefore dangerous, for these drivers.

Counterintuitive findings

Researchers from Wayne State University recently observed drivers of various ages as they performed a driving simulation, according to The Washington Post. During the simulation, the drivers were asked to respond to simple text messages from researchers. About half of the drivers owned smartphones, could text one-handed and described themselves as competent at texting. The others texted less frequently and considered themselves less skilled at it.

Overall, half of the drivers who considered themselves competent at texting left their lanes. Surprisingly, younger participants in this group showed the best performance. Just 25 percent of drivers between ages 18 and 24 drifted from their lanes. About 40 percent of drivers between ages 25 and 34 did. Among drivers between ages 35 and 44, the rate of lane incursions jumped to 80 percent. Alarmingly, virtually every driver over age 45 left his or her lane at least once.

Potential explanations

Researchers aren't sure why this was the case, since experienced drivers typically manage distractions better than younger drivers. The findings suggest that texting presents a distinct sort of distraction or challenge for the older drivers. According to The Detroit Free Press, researchers speculated the following factors could explain the findings:

  • Older drivers may be less capable of handling the significant cognitive demand of texting while driving.
  • Older drivers may spend more time looking at their phones while texting, leading to greater visual distraction.
  • Older drivers may simply be less comfortable texting than younger drivers, who grew up using electronic devices.

Further research could offer better insight into the matter. Still, regardless of the underlying reason, the fact that older drivers show this level of impairment while texting is alarming.

Addressing distracted driving

A comprehensive ban that acknowledges the dangers of texting and driving at all ages could soon pass in Texas. The Dallas Morning News reports that lawmakers are currently considering a bill to ban texting. More than 40 cities have also independently passed ordinances banning texting or general cellphone use.

Still, despite these measures, texting while driving may remain a widespread behavior, and it may harm many people this year. Anyone who has been hurt in an accident involving a texting driver of any age should consider speaking to an attorney. An attorney may be able to provide advice on seeking compensation for the accident and associated wrongful injuries.