You know how it is: you pull up at a red light and your phone pings. You’ve got time, so you may as well answer it, right? Wrong.
A new study conducted in Australia’s Sunshine State (and published in Risk Analysis: An International Journal) has found that most people don’t perceive texting and driving to be dangerous—in certain driving scenarios.
In Australia, 22% of car accidents (and 71% of truck accidents) occur due to mobile phone activity. However, actual crash risks depend on the type of task being performed and the extent of its mental and physical demands on the driver. Taking a call, for instance, increases crash risk by 2.2 times whereas texting increases risk by 6.1 times.
This has led to government campaigns like Get Your Hand Off It, and calls for more punitive measures to be taken against offenders. Despite this, research shows drivers are willing to take the risk due to ‘fear of missing out’ and separation anxiety.
In the study, “Should I text or call here? A situation-based analysis of Queensland drivers’ perceived likelihood of engaging in mobile phone multitasking,” researchers found that of all the volunteers, women, frequent users of their phones, people with negative attitudes towards safety and people with low levels of inhibition reported much stronger intentions of engaging in distracted driving.
The study found that many drivers make use of stops to use their mobile device, and many are able to restrain themselves to using phones only while stopped at intersections with signals. Also, according to Science Daily, “Many other researchers have also noted that drivers usually restrict engagement in heavy traffic or along curved sections of both urban and rural roads.” What this particular study did was identify what factors contribute to “self-regulation.”
As reported by Science Daily, “In the study, 447 drivers in South East Queensland, Australia, answered questions about perceived crash risk, perceived driving comfort, perceived driving difficulty, perceived driving ability, perceived likelihood of engaging in a voice call and perceived likelihood of engaging in texting.”
The authors concluded that females are more likely than males to engage in mobile phone use while driving. Additionally, more experienced drivers are less likely to engage in distracted driving. As for potential ways to stop people from doing so, the study found that “demanding traffic conditions” and “presence of law enforcement” were reported as effective deterrents—which supports high-visibility police enforcement programs as a way to combat distracted driving.
“Drivers are not good at identifying where it is safe to use their phone, it is safer for drivers to just pull over in an appropriate place to use their phone quickly and then resume their journey,” said Oviedo-Trespalacios, a member of the research team.