Obstacle Course Shows Dangers of Distracted Driving

NBC 5 Investigates participates in a distracted driving obstacle course to see how using a smartphone impacts your reaction time

Smart phones, touch-screen infotainment systems, sandwiches, musical instruments... These days drivers may be tempted by countless distractions while behind the wheel. But if you think you can safely text and drive, think again. 

"People accelerate, people slow down. They do it in a sudden fashion or in a slow fashion and when you’re distracted you can’t respond accordingly to that,” said Lt. Juan Valenzuela with the Illinois State Police. 

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says studies show typing or reading text messages significantly slows driver reaction time, increases lane deviations and increases the length of time drivers look away from the roadway.

NBC 5 Investigates participated in two distracted driving obstacle courses arranged by the State of Illinois, Carol Stream Police Department and State Farm Insurance. The goal was to avoid hitting orange traffic cones while using a smartphone to text and search for answers to trivia questions.And we hit lots of cones.

NBC 5 Investigates drove over 30 cones out of 81 on its first attempt to navigate the course in a golf cart while driving distracted. Subsequent attempts in a golf cart and full-size vehicle did not achieve significantly better results.

Carol Stream police officer Bob Turnholt said hitting a cone, in some cases, is equivalent to leaving your lane.

“Even out on the roadways, we see a lot of drivers that we think are impaired because they’re driving so poorly and you get up next to them and they’re on their phone,” Turnholt said.

State Farm Insurance said it typically uses driving simulators, golf carts and oversized tricycles to reinforce the dangers of distracted driving.

National data police shows 3,166 people died in motor vehicle crashes in which distraction was deemed a contributing factor in 2017.

Illinois recently increased the penalty for drivers caught using cell phones without a hands-free device. Those who are caught texting behind the wheel may receive a hit on their driving record. Three violations in one year could result in a suspended driver’s license.

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