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Why Texting and Driving Is So Dangerous

Why Texting and Driving Is So Dangerous

In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the good doctor’s monster was brought to life by high voltage electric shocks that jumpstarted the creature’s organs and brainwaves. According to a new study, these days all Dr. Frankenstein might need to get the monster going would be a smartphone!

Recent epilepsy research from the Mayo Clinic used an electroencephalogram to measure study participants’ brainwaves and found that for about 20 percent of folks “cortical processing in the contemporary brain is uniquely activated by the use of PEDs” or personal electronic devices, such as a cell phone or iPad.

That’s right, for some of you, sending a text message changes the pattern of your brainwaves, creating what the scientists described as a “unique rhythm” that can’t be replicated by tapping a finger or even by talking through the same device.

Seems it takes extra effort and concentration to complete what the researchers called “non-auditory complex communication,” such as texting: For everyone, it consumes all your conscious attention and for one in five it alters your brain waves!

So now we have a scientific explanation of why texting while driving (or crossing the street) is more dangerous than hands-free calling. (And hands-free is more dangerous than not doing it at all—26 percent of car crashes involve use of a cell phone, including hands-free calling.) So heed the words on the digital sign that looms over the Holland Tunnel on your way from downtown Manhattan to New Jersey: “Pay Attention. Just Drive!” 

Medically reviewed in January 2019.

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