The increasing usage of cell phones has been accompanied by an accelerating increase in the number of traffic accidents. (Wilson & Stimpson, 2010). Those who engage in texting while driving are 23 times more likely to have an accident than those who do not. (Gupta, Burns, & Boyd, 2015). In the United States alone, texting while driving may be responsible for thousands of additional traffic deaths. (Gupta, Burns, & Boyd, 2015). Texting and driving introduces three kinds of distraction: cognitive, visual, and physical. (Saqer, Visser, Strohl, & Parasuraman, 2012). All of these distractions can influence unintentional accidents that can cause innocent death. Cell phone use while driving increases the frequency and severity of lane excursions. (Rumschlag, Palumbo, Martin, Head, George, & Commissaris, 2015). A 5 second distraction at 55 mph equals driving about the length of a football field without looking at the road. (Moreno, 2014).
Known Causes and Risks of Texting and Driving
Rumschlag states that middle-age mature drivers are less affected by distractions than either older or younger drivers. (Rumschlag, Palumbo, Martin, Head, George, & Commissaris, 2015). The strongest predictors of texting while driving for both men and women are texting distractibility, the need to be connected by a cell phone, and the personality trait of risky behavior. (Struckman-Johnson, Gaster, Struckman-Johnson, Johnson, & May-Shinagle, 2015). The need to constantly be connected may be a manifestation of an addiction. (Gupta, Burns, & Boyd, 2015). Risky drivers, who have received traffic tickets, citations, or experienced a traffic crash, are exponentially more likely to text while driving. (Trivedi & Beck, 2018). Individuals who have less self-control were observed to text and drive more often. (Gupta, Burns, & Boyd, 2015). Individuals also perceive that time spent driving safely is considered wasted time and the associated notion that one should make time up on the road. (Gauld, Lewis, & White, 2014). This correlates to a lack of concern of other’s safety. Individuals who are actively involved in texting while driving view the activity positively, and do not view themselves as a responsible, concerned driver. (Gupta, Burns, & Boyd, 2015).
Motivations for Texting and Driving
Studies show that the motive for texting and driving seems to mostly be based off of behavioral observation, perception of others, and fast paced rewards. Teens build their texting confidence by seeing others text and drive; about half of teens report seeing their parents talk on the phone while driving and 15% report having seen their parents text and drive. (Moreno, 2014). Other people’s perception on an individual can also influence behavior change. A person’s intentions to text while driving, which are influenced by personal attitudes, subjective norms, perceived control, reference group norms, and morality norms, effectively predict actual behavior of texting while driving. (Hayashi, Russo, &Wirth, 2015). Studies also indicate that the less a person deems texting while driving as wrong and the more their peers approve of and participate in the activity, the more likely they are to engage in it themselves. (Gupta, Burns, & Boyd, 2015). In addition, texting while driving consists of a trade-off between a smaller-sooner reward and a larger-later reward. (Hayashi, Russo, &Wirth, 2015). These findings indicate that motivations to text and drive are persuaded by confidence, and quickly attempting to maximize minimum gain; including being perceived as part of an in-group for those who text and drive.
Prevention of Texting and Driving
Research indicates that there have been goals to change an individual’s attitude and behavior towards texting and driving. The first goal is to educate the target audience about their behavior, and what motivates them to text and drive. Behavioral observation, the perception of others, and fast paced rewards all motivate behavior. Using the correct influences to persuade an individual will be beneficial. Studies show that young adults who encouraged, or had been encouraged in the past by their significant other to drive more safely. (Trivedi & Beck, 2018). The more a person believes that their friends and peers approve of and engage in texting while driving, the greater their intention to engage in these behaviors through the theory of planned behavior. (Nemme & White, 2010). Focusing on shifting the group norm’s perception on the topic would be extremely beneficial towards persuading individuals. Another goal to help prevent texting and driving is the adaptation to technology. Companies, like Google, are developing apps to make texting while driving less distracting. Google Glass is an example of an app that reduces the physical distraction of texting and driving. With Google Glass, drivers may take less time to look for and reach the Google Glass than the smartphone, which therefore reduces the amount of visual and manual distraction and lane excursions. (He, Choi, McCarley, Chaparro, & Wang, 2015). Driving impairment is less severe with these up and coming technology adaptations. Furthermore, other companies are creating apps that lock the smartphone when the car turns on. Adaptations are extremely beneficial because traditional examples of persuasive are becoming less effective. Research shows that drivers are less influenced by fear-based advertising approaches. (Gauld, Lewis, & White, 2014). If a behavior is extremely complicated to change, it is appropriate for technology to keep adapting with texting and driving. It is the most effective way to reduce distractions while still providing the fast paced reward.
Texting and driving is a reoccurring a problem, and it will always be a problem unless stronger persuasion methods and adaptation methods are applied. However, completely shifting an individual’s behavior is extremely difficult. New persuasion methods should focus on educating about behavior, how other’s perceptions influence an individual, using technology to provide safe adaptations. There is an opportunity to aim advertising that has more of a connection with the individual rather than trying to scare them. In addition, there is also an opportunity to use technology further in the prevention process. Future technology plans can be extremely beneficial with continuing to reduce distraction. To conclude, it is necessary to keep promoting the motivation to stop texting and driving to lower the rate of unintentional accidents and innocent death.