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Truck drivers! Don't go texting now

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Fresh from the department of the bleeding obvious comes the news that truck drivers sending text messages are more likely to have accidents than those paying attention to the road ahead.

To be fair to the boffins at Virginia Tech, they did do proper research - fitting video cameras into more than 100 trucks and collecting statistics. But the conclusions - that sending text messages while driving is really very dangerous - should surely be obvious to everyone by now.

Nevertheless, some do remain unconvinced - 36 US states still don't have a ban on texting while driving. One could argue that existing legislation covering other forms of careless driving should be applicable, but the fact that text messaging is so much more dangerous than other activities does lend weight to the counter argument for specific legislation.

Sending a text message from a truck increased the chances of having an accident by 23.2 times, compared to 6.7 times for using an electronic device and 5.9 times for dialling a phone number: talking on the phone didn't alter the chances of an accident at all, at least not when sitting in an 18-wheeler.

That conflicts with recent studies that used simulators to demonstrate the danger of chatting from behind the wheel, but Virginia Tech can explain that:

"It is important to keep in mind that a driving simulator is not actual driving... when conflicting findings occur between naturalistic studies and simulator studies, findings from the real‐world, and not the simulator‐world, must be considered the gold standard."

Which puts the University of Utah in its place. But real-world research is expensive; the New York Times reports that this study cost around $6m to complete, which would pay for a lot of simulator time. One has to wonder how many more times we need to prove that sending text messages while driving is a really stupid thing to do. ®

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