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Do you text and drive? You’re as dangerous as a drunk driver: study

Texting and Driving

Lisa F. Young/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Texting behind the wheel may not have the same social stigma as driving drunk, but it can potentially be just as dangerous. Want to know how irresponsible u r being trying to txt and drv? Consider this: you're pretty much driving like someone who is wasted.

Researchers in Australia and Barcelona have found that you are just as bad a driver when answering a text message as you are when your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is above the legal limits in Spain (0.5 gram/litre).

In a simulation, study participants drove a car after consuming alcohol and also while using a mobile phone.

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"We conducted the study in Australia and the participants, who were volunteer students holding a driving license, had to keep their position in the centre of the left lane on the screen at a speed of between 60 and 80 kilometres per hour, breaking every time a lorry appeared," Sumie Shuk Man, a researcher at the University of Barcelona and co-author of the study, said in a release. Texting proved to be as dangerous as being twice over the legal limit, as was holding the phone and having a cognitively demanding conversation, such as answering the question, "How many of your friends have names that begin with a vowel?"

Perhaps the more worrisome finding of the study is that using a hands-free device was not always a completely safe alternative.

If a conversation isn't challenging, the effects of using a hands-free device were similar to having a BAC level of 0.04 g/l, below the legal limit of 0.5 g/l in Spain and Australia.

When the conversation using the hands-free was simple, the effects were comparable to a BAC level of 0.04 g/l, which is below the legal limit of 0.5 g/l in countries like Spain and Australia. But when the conversation required greater attention, drivers' had the same skill level of someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.7 g/l, which is above the legal limit in both countries yet below in other countries, including Canada and the U.S., where up to 0.8 g/l is allowed. When answering text messages, the rate shot up to 1 g/l which is above the legal limit in any of these countries.

According to the CAA, eight out of every 10 collisions are caused by distracted driving.

Every Canadian province and territory with the exception of Nunavut has distracted driving laws, but they are often ignored. Just like you probably wouldn't knock back a few whiskies before firing up the ignition, maybe you should put your phone down, too.

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

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