People text and drive knowing dangers – survey

2014-11-06 08:35

Nearly everyone agrees that texting and driving is dangerous. Many people do it anyway.

In a survey of frequent drivers who text daily – regardless of where they are – 98% said they were aware of the dangers of texting behind the wheel.

Nonetheless, three-quarters of them admitted to texting while driving, despite broad public-service campaigns and laws against it.

Two-thirds said they have read text messages while stopping at a red light or stop sign, and more than a quarter said they have sent texts while driving.

More than a quarter of those who texted while driving believed they “can easily do several things at once, even while driving”.

The survey was sponsored by American multinational telecommunications corporation AT&T, who released the survey yesterday as part of an anti-texting-and-driving campaign.

AT&T designed the survey with David Greenfield, founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and a professor at the University of Connecticut’s School of Medicine.

The survey came as AT&T expanded availability of a free app that silences text message alerts and activates automatically when a person is moving 24km/h or faster.

The DriveMode app is coming to iPhones after being previously available on Android and BlackBerry phones for AT&T users only. The iPhone version will be available to customers of competing carriers as well, but some functions will work only on AT&T devices.

The study in May was of mobile phone owners ages 16 to 65 who drive almost every day and text at least once a day. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Researchers excluded 343 people because they didn’t text or drive enough to meet the criteria. After those and other exclusions, 1 004 adults in the United States completed the telephone survey.

Greenfield said the survey is the latest to show a discrepancy between people’s attitudes and behaviours.

It found a broad range of reasons why drivers text. Forty-three percent of the texting drivers said they wanted to “stay connected” to friends, family and work. Nearly a third did it out of habit.

Greenfield, who studies the effects of digital technology on the brain, likes to call smartphones “the world’s smallest slot machines” because they affect the brain in similar ways that gambling or drugs can.

Dopamine levels increase as you anticipate messages, and that leads to higher levels of pleasure. Getting desirable messages can increase dopamine levels further.

He said people should not use their phone at all while driving, but acknowledges that this might not be realistic.

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