Texters: Please ban what I do...

Mike Fumento passed along a remarkably silly statistic from this Reuters story about a Harris Interactive survey from a couple years ago. According to the article:

89 percent of respondents believe texting while driving is dangerous and should be outlawed.

Yet,

66 percent of the adults surveyed who drive and use text messaging told pollsters they had read text messages or e-mails while driving. Fifty-seven percent admitted to sending them.

The survey was from 3 years ago, but a more recent Pew Survey reported in this Huffington Post piece found a similar rate. Of those adults who use text messaging, 47% have done so while driving (that works out to a little more than 1/4 of adults who text while driving).

So….at least some of the people who were surveyed know that texting while driving is dangerous and think that it should banned, but they do it anyway. Although these responses seem incoherent, there are two ways to make sense of them:

1) Some of the respondents are oddly sado-masochistic; they know they’re being bad and want to be punished. With a ticket.

2) Some of the respondents know that they are so devoid of will power that they need some external deterrent to avoid doing something they know to be stupid.

I’m not sure which is worse…

5 comments to Texters: Please ban what I do…

  • [...] drivers about their own driving behavior and perceptions of driving risks. Earlier this year I posted about the apparent contradiction between what we know and what we do—people continue to talk and [...]

  • Ed Morphis

    It seems to me, that what the statistics show, is how far our behavior is separated from how we know we should behave.

  • The other possibility is that they think it’s dangerous for *other* people to text while driving. Most people think they are better than average drivers.

  • Excellent point. In fact, with past-tense wording, the number of people who have texted while driving can only increase (until they start dying off from accidents…). It would be good to conduct a survey asking the question with a constrained time frame: “have you texted while driving in the past week?” for example. My bet, though, is that the rates haven’t changed as much as we might want. I’m guessing most people who have texted tend to think that they can get away with it, even if they “know” it’s dangerous and think other people can’t do it safely. Worth a follow-up survey in any case.

  • There is a third category. Those that have texted while driving, but now recognize the practice is dangerous, no longer engage in it, and think it should be banned. The past tense nature of the question as reported (I have not read the actual survey questions) would not distinguish this group from one that continued to text while driving.

    While the Pew Survey suggests that practices might not have changed, the sample cohorts are not the same and the percentages are lower in the more recent survey, which is consistent with increased recognition (and action on that recognition) that texting while driving is dangerous.

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