Texting behind wheel impedes brain's safety sense

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A new study has found that texting while driving can cause a key safety function in the brain to stop working, making it one of the most dangerous activities motorists can undertake, the RAC reports.

The research, which involved 59 volunteers driving along a simulated road while being distracted, found the brain's "autopilot" function was prevented from working efficiently when texting while driving.

Distractions the participants faced were being asked mentally challenging questions and emotionally charged questions. They were also presented with what the researchers called "texting trivialities."

While all three forms of distractions resulted in "jittery" steering, only the "texting trivialities" caused significant lane deviation and unsafe driving.

The "autopilot" is located in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) region of the brain, the researchers explained. The jittery wheel handling was caused by "fight or flight" energy in the drivers' arms, caused by the stress from external distractions.

However, the ACC kicked in to counterbalance any strong jittering in either direction so as to avoid any veering, keeping the vehicle on course.

This system was disrupted by texting, resulting in jittery handling of the wheel going unchecked.

Lead researcher from the University of Houston, Dr Ioannis Pavlidis, said: "The driver's mind can wander, and his or her feelings may boil, but a sixth sense keeps a person safe at least in terms of veering off course.

"What makes texting so dangerous is that it wreaks havoc into this sixth sense."

Did you know the brain had a safety sense?

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