Text-speak messages cause 'blindness' in drivers

CAROLINE KING
Last updated 05:00 11/08/2012

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Tempted to read a text message while driving?

If the message is in text-speak, you could be at more risk of crashing, a study by Canterbury University PhD student James Head shows.

The study found that reading a text message with text-speak required more focus than correctly spelled words, placing the driver in a state of "inattentional blindness" and increasing the chance of missing critical signals.

Text-speak refers to words that have been abbreviated, such as "ttyl" (talk to you later) and includes leaving out vowels.

In the study, 40 participants read a correctly spelled story and a story in text-speak while wearing a vibration belt around their waist. They were asked to identify, as quickly as possible, which side of their body the vibration occurred.

Slower reaction times and fewer correct vibration detections occurred while reading text-speak than while reading a correctly spelled story.

On average, the reaction time was 11 milliseconds slower when reading text-speak.

Text-speak appeared to induce a "greater mental workload" as the recognition was not as "automatic".

The study noted that if the reader was less familiar with text-speak, additional workload could be needed.

"Although our study does not include assessments of driving performance . . . it nevertheless has implications for any tasks combined with reading text-speak," it said.

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