Study: Drivers on phone twice as likely to crash

Experienced drivers on the road are more than twice as likely to have a car accident or nearly crash while dialing a number on their phone, according to a new federally backed study.

The risks are even greater for teen drivers who had only recently gotten their licenses, the National Institutes of Health and Virginia Tech study released on Thursday found.

The study found that novice teen drivers were eight times more likely to crash or nearly crash while dialing a phone. They are almost four times more likely to crash or nearly crash when texting than when not using their devices.

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Those risks add up, since drivers are on their phones or otherwise distracted about 10 percent of the time while behind the wheel, the survey found.

“Anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road can be dangerous,” said Bruce Simons-Morton, a co-author of the study, in a statement. “But our study shows these distracting practices are especially risky for novice drivers, who haven’t developed sound safety judgment behind the wheel.”

Talking on a phone, in and of itself, did not increase risk of crashes among adults or teen drivers. However, the researchers still supported a driving licensing program that limited the use of electronic devices.

They added support for existing laws restricting drivers from texting or making phone calls behind the wheel.

“Our data support the current trend in implementing restrictions on texting and cell phone use in vehicles,” said Simons-Morton.

The study looked at 150 drivers in the Washington area and in southwestern Virginia over a period of 12 to 18 months. The results appeared in the Thursday edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.