Gauge Your Distraction While You Text and Drive in the Distracted Driving Game

From Gabriel Dance, Tom Jackson, and Aaron Pilhofer of the New York Times is this game to gauge your distraction while you’re texting on the road. Yes. It’s fun AND educational. Here’s how it works.

You’re in a car with a driver’s point of view. You’re driving on a freeway or road with a ridiculous number of gates. There are six of them, and as you approach the gates, one will open, and you have select that open gate by pressing the right number. After a few seconds of practice, you’ll receive a text message on the screen that asks a question. You have to reply while still selecting the correct gates as they pass.

In the end you get a comparison of your reaction times while texting and not texting:

Reaction Time

I am apparently a slow texter compared to the average. I think I also may or may not have hit a gray lady.

Regardless, texting slows your reaction time. The lesson? Don’t text while you’re driving. If you hit my car, I will be mad, and you don’t want to see me angry. Nathan smash. Rawr.


  • The idea is nice, but the game is way too fast. If you are in such “busy” situation you shouldn’t even pick up your phone.

    A problem with the game is that it’s got little to do with real driving. The whole point of being able to “multitask” while driving is the fact that driving becomes a second nature and (almost) automatic process. You often don’t need conscious attention to drive. When a car moves into your rear view, you see the car without really thinking about it, etc. But once it’s time to switch lanes, something in your (back) consciousness tells you to pay attention to that car that was behind you a minute ago.

    Maybe if you practice the game for a while, then the comparison gets more fair

    But I am sure that while trying to text message while driving, reaction time is slower. No game needed to know that :)

  • while I agree with the hypothesis that texting slows reaction time, I think it’s more a problem of extended time looking away from the road. I won’t text or dial (unless it’s someone on my push-and-hold-button speed dial, which I can do without looking) while the car is moving, but I will at a red light – I can see the light and text at the same time, and stop texting when it turns green. No more distracting than seeking a new radio station or flipping through my iPod to get to a song I want. I actually think people over-reliant on their GPSs are often just as bad – I watch them cut across several lanes of busy freeway traffic to get to their exit ALL THE TIME and I can see the glow of the GPS screen reflected on their windows. People, if you HAVE a GPS, it will do this neat little trick of “recalculating route” if you miss your exit – just wait for the next one instead of endangering everyone on the damn road!

    And if you’re so darn important that text messages can’t wait until the car has come to a complete stop, you need a chauffeur. If you can’t afford a chauffer and no other entity is forthcoming with providing one to enable them to have text messaging access to you at a moment’s notice 24/7, then take that as a sign that you’re NOT that darn important and put down the effing phone!

  • I’m afraid this game isn’t a good enough simulation of reality, and that it could make people get a false sense of security about their ability to text and drive (8% more gates missed might not sound that bad to some). Also, shouldn’t you miss 0 gates when not texting? In that case how do they compute % more gates missed?

    Dang those gray ladies, always getting in the way!

  • Good idea, but like previously mentioned, I don’t text back because I don’t actually feel comfortable texting in that situation! Gets the point across, but alas…

  • This “simulation” makes a terrific point – don’t drive 80 mph on a toll road with booths every 500 feet. Who is the maniac that changes lanes this frequently – especially from extreme right to left and vice versa? While I TOTALLY agree that people shouldn’t text while driving, this game was a tad ridiculous.