In Virginia and across the U.S., there have been efforts to introduce “behavioral countermeasures” to curb distracted driving and other unsafe actions behind the wheel. A new study has come out with some results, based on naturalistic driving study data, that can help in these efforts. It concerns the link between distracted driving and crashes in highway work zones.

Researchers at the University of Missouri analyzed first-hand accounts of how more than 3,000 drivers were interacting with their vehicle, the road and their surroundings in the moments before they initiated a crash. Based on this, they calculated that drivers who are inattentive for any length of time are 29 times likelier to be in a crash or near-crash in a highway work zone.

Inattention can be caused by everything from calling and texting to eating and drinking. Even conversations with passengers can be distracting, especially for younger drivers. But texting might be the most distracting of all these. It takes about five seconds to send a text, during which time a driver going 55 mph can cover the length of a football field.

The results of the study may be beneficial to more than the state transportation agencies. Automakers that are trying to build self-driving vehicles may find them helpful as well.

Drivers have a duty to keep their vehicle under control. When inattention leads to a crash, those who were harmed through no fault of their own may pursue a personal injury lawsuit. However, Virginia follows the strict rule of pure contributory negligence, which means that victims who are even slightly to blame cannot recover damages. To see how their case will hold up to this rule, they may want to meet with a lawyer.