Most People Think Texting While Driving Is Fine, Study Says

using smartphone behind wheel
A driver uses a phone while behind the wheel of a car on April 30, 2016 in New York City. As accidents involving drivers using phones mount across the U.S., many states have started to outlaw or restrict phones while driving. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The iPhone was introduced in 2007, and other smartphones followed quickly in its wake. We've had computers in our pockets for a decade now, and they've become our external brains. We check them several times an hour — more if Lin-Manuel Miranda has promised a new Hamildrop on Twitter.

But you know when you shouldn't check your phone, especially to respond to text messages? Of course you do. When you are in the car. Not while you're driving. Not at a red light or stop sign. Not in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Not in a box, and not with a fox. Actually, on second thought, you should totally text when you are in a box with a fox, with pictures please. That sounds awesome.


But even though we might know this intuitively, a new study shows differently. Australian researchers asked 447 drivers how they viewed their driving abilities as well as how likely they were to talk on the phone and text while at the wheel. They found that 68 percent of respondents "would need a lot of convincing" to believe that texting while driving is dangerous. Females were more likely to use their smartphones while driving than males, the study found. It was published in Risk Analysis: An International Journal in May 2018.

There is some hope though. The researchers noted that people were less likely to use their phones when traffic is bad, the road is curvy or there are cops around. This shows that a strong police presence (and updated laws) could combat distracted driving. As of July 2018, 47 states ban texting while driving and 16 ban using a handheld device — whether for talking or texting — while driving. Some 70 countries ban using handheld devices while driving.

The scientists found that drivers who'd been driving for a long time were less likely to call or text while driving than newer drivers. And all drivers were way more likely to talk on the phone while driving than text, since you don't have to look away from the road to take a call as you do to type a message.

"Drivers are not good at identifying where it is safe to use their phone," said study co-author Oscar Oviedo-Trespalacios of the Australia Queensland University of Technology in a press release. "It is safer for drivers to just pull over in an appropriate place to use their phone quickly and then resume their journey."

So, pull over, get in that box, take a selfie with that fox, and send it before you start driving again.