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Are drivers lying about their texting?

Probably. In recent years, we have all seen the various campaigns to raise awareness of the dangers of cell phone use in motor vehicles in general and texting in particular. Cellphone use possess a uniquely satisfying attribute, in that it fulfills a basic human desire for a “reward,” and receiving emails and texts provides that type of a “hit.” 

But in a car, while driving down the highway, the distraction caused by checking a text or replying to it can be disastrous. Texting is especially distracting because it requires both motor action by the fingers, the typing of the letters and the cognitive distraction of the brain reading the message and formulating a response.

And as ubiquitous as cellphone use appears to be, the numbers reported by surveys of driver behavior by drivers suggest it is not as universal as you might believe.

However, surveys of passengers point to a much higher level of usage. According to some surveys, only 30 percent of drivers self-report texting while driving. But when you ask passengers if they have ever ridden with a driver who texts, the number jumps to 53 percent.

Of course, the most accurate data would come from examining cellphone records across the board and correlating cellphone use to movement between cell towers. However, it is unlikely cellphone companies would be interested in releasing such data for study, as it would potentially support those who would like to further restrict cellphone use while driving.

One study also shows men are most likely to pick up a call while driving, especially if it is from their wife or their mom. But answering the phone or responding to a text while in a vehicle is never a good idea. Those few seconds of distraction could make it your last call ever.

Cnbc.com, “Men and women are lying about their texting-and-driving,” Eric Chemi and Mark Fahey, April 7, 2015

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