Thursday, 12 November 2015

Is The Text Worth It?

Is The Text Worth It?

In our current society, cell phone usage has become a substantial part of our lives. In fact, texting is almost second nature to many of us, as we often do it without much conscious awareness. Many would argue that cell phone use is effortless and can even be executed while simultaniously engaging in other tasks. It has become socially acceptable to constantly see people on their phones, whether it be while eating, walking, talking to their friends and even while driving. Is it possible that individuals have evolved to become so proficient at it that one can successfully engage in various activities while texting?

There has been a lot of influential research concerning impaired driving and the serious consequences that come with it. However, in more recent years the body of research about distracted driving, such as texting and talking on the phone while driving has greatly increased. Previous research has found that talking on a hand-held or hands-free cellphone has a similar reaction time delay as the one evidenced in drivers with a alcohol level of 0.08%. A recent study by Terry and Terry (2015), was interested in looking at the perceived risk of distracted driving and how often people engage in this behaviour. To test this, researchers recruited 726 college students, 18 years of age or older. Students were asked different types of questions regarding the perceived risks associated with the use of a cell-phone while on the road, the frequency of cell phone use while driving, social norms regarding the behaviour and frequency of drinking and driving. Findings demonstrate that students perceive sending a text while driving as the highest risk for a car accident, while talking on a hands-free device as having the least amount of risk. Interestingly, it was found that participants reported sending a text while driving to have a similar accidental risk as driving with an alcohol level of higher than 0.08% (the legal limit). However, they also reported engaging in texting while driving more often than driving with a alcohol level of 0.08% or higher, quite a concerning finding. Furthermore, when asked about social norms and how their peers view cell phone use while driving, they reported their peers to be more accepting and had more liberal views than their own about the behaviour. This finding can help explain why more students engage in cell phone use while concurrently driving.

In addition, students acknowledged the risks associated with cell-phone use while driving but also believed that they were capable of implementing risk-reduction strategies, such as limiting talking and texting to ideal driving conditions and when the vehicle is at a halt. Also, it was found that college students tend to give less severe penalties to those who engage in distracted driving in comparison to those who drive under the influence. Therefore, it is suggested that there are less negative attitudes towards distracted driving, in comparison to impaired driving.

Although, future research should focus on targeting a broader age and population group, these findings are all very concerning, and need to be taken with gravity. Cell phone use extends to people of any age, and seeing as society is increasingly more dependent on cell phones, people need to understand that distracted driving can have the same risks and life threatening implications as impaired driving. 

So, is the text worth it? NO! It's time to make a change. But first, we, as a society need to overcome the challenge of viewing cell phone use as an acceptable behaviour. We need to increase public awareness of the seriousness and deathly consequences associated with this dangerous behaviour. Increase stigma around cell-phone use and have harsher punishments for those engaging in such behaviour. It is fundamentally imperative that individuals recognize that it is not just THEIR life on the line, but also everyone else's around them. So, put the phone down and focus on the task at hand...your phone can wait!

By: Paola Bonilla

  • Terry, C. P., & Terry, D. L. (2015). Distracted driving among college students: 11111Perceived risk versus reality. Current Psychology, doi:10.1007/s12144-11111015-9373-3

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