Effects of distracted driving on your body

Texas A&M Transportation Institute conducts research

HOUSTON – It's now a well-known problem: Drivers distracted at the wheel.

Whether it's texting, dancing or talking with someone in the car, distracted drivers create a dangerous situation on the roads.

Research is now being conducted in Texas to show the effects distracted driving has on our bodies.

“We've found that people do get stressed out when they're trying to do two things at once," said Robert Wunderlich, with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. "And that in certain circumstances, particularly when they're taking their eyes off the road, that their performance deteriorates.”

Researchers at the Transportation Institute created a driving simulator to help capture data on what really happens to drivers when they're not paying attention to the road.

“(What) we’re trying to find out is whether or not -- just as you would monitor the engine temperature and your oil pressure -- can we measure literally the pressure that’s on the driver and see whether or not they’re under a lot of stress, and whether or not it’s affecting their performance?" Wunderlich said.

KPRC 2 News' Jennifer Reyna hopped into the simulator for a spin. Then, while driving down a busy road, she started texting.

Within a matter of moments, Wunderlich said, the monitors showed Reyna's body displaying signs of stress when she was texting.

"That’s what we found, is (that) when people are -- (when they) have more than one task to do, and they’re texting and driving, that they start getting stressed out and we can tell that by the amount of perspiration," Wunderlich said.

But according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, texting isn't the only distraction that caused drivers stress.

Answering homework questions from your kids, traffic and even driving while you’re upset can all be distractions.

“Sometimes we get carried away and we think that the communicating or the Snapchatting or texting or doing something like that is very important," Wunderlich said.

During the simulations, researchers noticed drivers are so distracted, they mismanage their speed, ignore speed limit signs and even cross the white line.

The goal of the study is to help motorists drive better.

"We think that there might be a way to use technology -- the same kind of brain power and smarts that are in electronic devices to actually tell you that this is too much," Wunderlich said.

Researchers at the institute are also working with the University of Houston and the University of Michigan on the study. The next leg of the study will track drivers in real-life situations to see how their bodies respond to driving in traffic.