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Driving sad, texting mad: how we're driven to distraction

New research shows that distracted driving continues to be a growing problem closely linked to tech devices and emotional states.
Listen6:18

Distracted driving is a growing problem. You switch radio stations, look at your GPS, use the dashboard touchscreen menus, and maybe even answer your handheld cell phone. But there are some serious forms of distraction that have nothing to do with technology at all!

In a new study, researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that drivers can more than double their crash risk when they choose to engage in activities that take their eyes off the road. But their data also showed that a driver's crash risk increases almost tenfold if the driver is in an emotional state where they are angry, sad, or crying.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute naturalistic driving study method involves equipping vehicles with unobtrusive instrumentation, including an advanced suite of radars, sensors, and cameras - depicted here with an institute researcher volunteer behind the wheel. The method continuously collects real-world driver performance and behavior. (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute)

Tom Dingus is the Director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. He discusses the results from the largest crash-only, naturalistic driving study ever conducted in the United States, which involved more than 3,500 drivers across six data collection sites. 

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