WASHINGTON - Text messaging behind the wheel increases the risk of a crash or a near crash by 23 times, and is far more dangerous than talking on a cell phone while driving, according to a report released Tuesday.
The study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) said while talking on a phone did not cause drivers to take their eyes off the road, use of a keypad distracted motorists with disastrous consequences.
"Text messaging on a cell phone was associated with the highest risk of all cell phone related tasks," the VTTI said. "The tasks that draw the driver's eyes away from the forward roadway were those with the highest risk."
Studies conducted by the VTTI found that text messaging resulted in the longest duration of "eyes off road time" -- 4.6 seconds over a six-second interval.
"This equates to a driver traveling the length of a football field (100 yards/meters) at 55 miles per hour (88.5 kilometers per hour) without looking at the roadway," it said.
"Talking/listening to a cell phone allowed drivers to maintain eyes on the road and were not associated with an increased safety risk to nearly the same degree," it said.
The study found that the risk of a crash or a near crash in a light vehicle or car while dialing on a cell phone was 2.8 times higher than non-distracted driving.
It was 1.3 times higher when it came to talking or listening on a cell phone, and 1.4 times higher when reaching for an object such as an electronic device.
For the report, the VTTI used cameras and instrumentation to observe light vehicle and truck drivers involved in more than six million miles (nearly 10 million kilometers) of driving.
"These results show conclusively that a real key to significantly improving safety is keeping your eyes on the road," the VTTI said.
It recommended that "texting and dialing, should always be avoided" and called for text messaging to be banned in moving vehicles for all drivers.
In the Philippines, no study has been made to see the dangers of text messaging while driving but local lawmakers have been making calls to discourage drivers from using their phones.
In April this year Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. submitted Senate Bill 3188 (http://www.senate.gov.ph/lisdata/109099675!.pdf) that regulates mobile phone use while driving.
Revilla?s proposal is an amalgamation of several previous proposals all of which are calling for drivers to avoid using their phones while driving.
The bill also required drivers to use hands-free accessories when using phones for making calls.
The Philippines, considered the text capital of the world, has at least 68 million mobile phone subscribers sending nearly 1 billion text messages per day.