Distracted driving is a significant contributor to motor vehicle accidents and fatalities, and texting is a particularly significant form of driver distraction that continues to be on the rise. The present study examined the influence of driver age (18-59 years old) and other factors on the disruptive effects of texting on simulated driving behavior. While 'driving' the simulator, subjects were engaged in a series of brief text conversations with a member of the research team. The primary dependent variable was the occurrence of Lane Excursions (defined as any time the center of the vehicle moved outside the directed driving lane, e.g., into the lane for oncoming traffic or onto the shoulder of the road), measured as (1) the percent of subjects that exhibited Lane Excursions, (2) the number of Lane Excursions occurring and (3) the percent of the texting time in Lane Excursions. Multiple Regression analyses were used to assess the influence of several factors on driving performance while texting, including text task duration, texting skill level (subject-reported), texting history (#texts/week), driver gender and driver age. Lane Excursions were not observed in the absence of texting, but 66% of subjects overall exhibited Lane Excursions while texting. Multiple Regression analysis for all subjects (N=50) revealed that text task duration was significantly correlated with the number of Lane Excursions, and texting skill level and driver age were significantly correlated with the percent of subjects exhibiting Lane Excursions. Driver gender was not significantly correlated with Lane Excursions during texting. Multiple Regression analysis of only highly skilled texters (N=27) revealed that driver age was significantly correlated with the number of Lane Excursions, the percent of subjects exhibiting Lane Excursions and the percent of texting time in Lane Excursions. In contrast, Multiple Regression analysis of those drivers who self-identified as not highly skilled texters (N=23) revealed that text task duration was significantly correlated with the number of Lane Excursions. The present studies confirm past reports that texting impairs driving simulator performance. Moreover, the present study demonstrates that for highly skilled texters, the effects of texting on driving are actually worse for older drivers. Given the increasing frequency of texting while driving within virtually all age groups, these data suggest that 'no texting while driving' education and public service messages need to be continued, and they should be expanded to target older drivers as well.
Keywords: Distracted Driving; Driver Age Effects on Driving; Driving Simulator Performance; Texting and Driving.
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