A couple of marketing professors at Kings College in Pennsylvania recently decided to find out how effectively the word is getting out on the dangers of texting while driving. In particular, they wanted to know whether young people were taking warnings about those dangers seriously enough to stop and, if not, whether it was resistance to the message or another factor, such as inability to resist the impulse.
Since males tend overall to be more impulsive than females, the professors thought they would find that males texted while driving more often than females. Surprisingly, the researchers found that both sexes were equally likely to engage in the dangerous practice — and four out of five study participants admitted doing so.
While the study was limited to 120 college students, the authors describe the study as the among the first attempting to identify what motivates people to text behind the wheel when it’s so clearly dangerous. After all, some studies have shown that texting while driving hampers the driver’s reaction time even more than alcohol intoxication, and that while many people think they have the multitasking skill to pull it off, fewer than 3 percent of the population has any real ability to competently perform more than one activity at a time.
That false perception among drivers that they’re somehow immune from being distracted by texting while they’re driving showed up in this study, as well. This time, there was evidence that males are more likely to believe that than are females.
While both men and women said they had heard about the danger, the men appeared to have less real appreciation for it. The women, somewhat surprisingly, were more impulsive about texting than the men, but that didn’t carry over to texting behind the wheel.
The researchers didn’t find a clear answer to what motivates people to text behind the wheel. What they did find was strong evidence that state laws prohibiting texting, cell phone use and other driving distractions had little impact on their decisions.
“Simply outlawing the behavior is insufficient to persuade people not to do it,” they wrote, recommending that further research be done on strategies that could actually change people’s habits and minds.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Males downplay risk of texting and driving, study says,” Monte Morin, Oct. 11, 2013