SPOKANE, Wash. - We all know texting while driving is illegal in many states – including Washington and Idaho – but still, many drivers pull out their phones behind the wheel, and if you're being honest, you've probably done it yourself.
Studies have shows texting while driving is as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol, so we put a high school student, along with myself, to the test.
Sophomore Drew Clark volunteered for the job. We put him behind the wheel on a closed course, away from actual traffic, in a car with a machine attached which measures the driver's initial reaction time of hitting the brake, as well as how long it takes to completely stop.
The mission? When the red light on the windshield flashes, stop.
A teenager and avid texter, Drew thinks he'll pass with flying colors.
"I probably have 200 texts a day," he told us. "I don't think texting should affect [my reaction] too much, because I can do it without looking. I don't think it will bring it down at all."
His instructor is former Puyallup cop and 911 Driving School owner, AJ Seitz. He knows all too well students – like Drew – often think they can text behind the wheel.
Seitz says a good reaction time is ¾ of a second, so we tested Drew's base reaction time without texting.
After three rounds, it took him an average of 0.88 seconds to hit the brakes – not bad – but it still took an average of almost 3 seconds to completely stop.
When we asked Drew to start texting me, it got much worse. The red light went off before he could even send the first text – but Drew never saw it.
"We're getting close to the length of a football field by the time that thing beeped," Seitz said, referring to the beep from the machine, after it times out after several seconds.
That's just trying to send one text. But in a back-and-forth conversation trying to stay at 20 mph, Drew noticed he went up to 26 mph at one point. But what he didn't notice was that he also slowed down to about 10 mph – a prime target for a rear-end crash.
"I actually didn't realize it would be that hard or that it would affect my time that bad either," Drew said.
Then I got behind the wheel to see if a few more years of experience behind the wheel would help. It didn't.
The first time, I didn't see the red light either. The second round, it took me 1.17 seconds to hit the brakes, and nearly 3 ½ seconds to stop.
"So if you're text messaging and it takes you 2 or 3 seconds, that's huge," Seitz explained. "I mean that's typically where something is right in front of them and they're not going to be able to react in time."
After our test, Drew is looking at texting differently:
"I was thinking about it a couple weeks ago, like if I'd ever text, and I figured I probably would," he said. "But after doing this, I'm never going to do it because I'm scared to now."