Texting and driving is one of the most dangerous behaviors
you can engage in these days. In 2010, a total of 3092 people were
killed in accidents that involved a distracted driver. An additional 416,000 were injured in distracted
A new study from the University of Michigan suggests that
many drivers may not be aware of their actions. Researchers found that a
person’s level of habit is an excellent predictor of texting while driving
behavior, in fact a better predictor than how much they actually text.
According to the researchers, when people check their phones
on a regular basis, without giving it any thought, it represents an automatic
behavior. This is called automaticity. This was the key variable during the
study and it was often triggered by situational prompts. Automaticity happens
without awareness, attention, intention or control.
In simpler terms, this means that some people feel
automatically compelled to read, respond to, and check for new messages, in
many cases they might not even realize they are doing all of this while
This was a first of its kind study, identifying how
unconscious thought can effect driving and texting. It differs from other
research that only looked at the effect of texting and driving. The study looks
at the role that habit plays in texting and driving instead of simply figuring
out how often it happens.
Experts believe that while knowing how often people text is
important, understanding the behavior behind texting and driving and how they
process it is important as well.
According to the authors of the study, a texting cue might
be a new message symbol, a vibration or even an internal alarm clock that
prompts them to check their phone. When it comes to habitual behavior, cues
become so automatic that a person may respond without even meaning to do so.
The study used several hundred undergrad students. These
students responded to a questionnaire which asked about their perceptions and
usage of mobile communication technology. They were questioned about their
frequency of texting, as well as automaticity, in addition to their opinions
and attitudes about texting and driving.
The study found that automatic tendencies are a significant
predictor of how often people will both read and send texts while driving, even
when taking into account their attitudes about texting and driving. Even those
that have a negative opinion of texting and driving will engage in texting
behind the wheel if they have high automatic tendencies.
The authors hope that the results may help find a solution
to the problem of texting and driving. Controlling or at least drawing
attention to automaticity and identifying triggers that prompt users to reach
for their phones could help prevent texting while driving.
While the results are exciting, more studies need to be done
to measure the results across various age groups instead of just young adults.
A new study has found that automaticity plays a big part in
texting while driving.