Social media use while driving impairs teen reaction times: UK study

April 18, 2012

Wokingham, England – Teens take 30 percent longer to react to visual and auditory stimuli, including roadway hazards, when using social media websites on smartphones while driving, according to a study released by U.K.-based Transport Research Laboratory.

Researchers compared the results of two simulated driving reaction-time tests conducted with 28 teens. In one test, participants visited social networking sites on a smartphone while driving; in a subsequent test, smartphones were not allowed. Comparing the tests, researchers found:

  • Between 40 and 60 percent of driving time was spent viewing the smartphone during the first test versus 10 percent of time looking away from the roadway without a smartphone present.
  • Using a smartphone resulted in a reduced ability to notice or react in time to roadway hazards.
  • Driving speed decreased when using a smartphone, but the teen’s ability to change speed in relation to other vehicles was reduced.

Researchers concluded that social media use on smartphones while driving caused a combination of concentration, motor control and visual distractions.