People who text while driving are six times more likely to be involved in a car crash while those who talk on a mobile device while driving increase their crash risk more than two times. Yet many drivers are still willing to take the risk, as “fear of missing out” and separation anxiety keep them from abiding by the law, according to a new study. (Study source: Risk Analysis: An International Journal). 

Many drivers simply don’t perceive texting and driving to be dangerous in certain driving scenarios.
The study found that females are more likely than males to engage in mobile phone use while driving.
More experienced drivers are less likely to engage in distracted driving. Results show that as the number of years with license increase, the probability of participating in distracted driving decreases, and drivers who are more disinhibited are more likely to drive distracted.

According to the Wisconsin DMV, Wisconsin prohibits all drivers from texting. It’s illegal to use an electronic communications device for composing, reading or sending text messages. This ban calls for primary enforcement, meaning that a police officer can stop a driver and give them a ticket for texting, without another traffic violation taking place. First-time offenders face fines as low as $20, but repeat-offenders are subject to much higher fines, which can go up to $400. In addition, 4 demerit points may be added against your driver’s license.

In the U.S., mobile phone usage has been a factor in one quarter of all car collisions. However, actual crash risks vary based on the type of task being performed and the extent of its cognitive and physical demands on the driver. Talking on a mobile device increases crash risk by 2.2 times whereas texting increases risk by 6.1 times.

The researchers found that drivers engage in self-regulation when deciding whether to use their phones while driving, as they try to cope with environmental factors while maintaining a high level of performance. For example, many drivers make use of stops to initiate using their mobile device, and many are able to restrain themselves to using phones only while stopped at intersections with signals. Other researchers have also noted that drivers usually restrict engagement in heavy traffic or along curved sections of both urban and rural roads.

“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 one of the authors, Oscar Oviedo-Trespalacios.

The authors say the results from this study may contribute to more targeted distracted driving campaigns by highlighting opportunities for interventions. These campaigns should target safety attitudes to more effectively curb drivers’ motivations for engaging with their phones while driving.