As any Oprah watcher can tell you, texting while driving is a problem. We can make it illegal (it is in a majority of States), but that doesn’t necessarily eliminate what to many still seems like an innocuous act. A coinciding approach involves looking at the reasons people engage in the behavior, and engaging motivations by starting with intentions. Nemme and White took this approach, a variation of the Theory of Planned Behavior, in their study of 17-24 year-old Australian students.
They looked at five factors that contributed to intention to text while driving:
- Attitude towards texting
- Subjective norm, or the person’s perceptions about how others feel about texting while driving
- Past behavior
- Group Norm, or if the people they know read or send text messages while driving
- Moral Norm, or if the person feels it is a right or wrong action
Following the theory of planned behavior, these factors lead to intention, which then leads to behavior (measured a week later as both sending and receiving texts). Perceived behavioral control, or how much control the person feels she/he has over his/her behaviors, also influences both intention and behavior.
They found that 1) attitude predicted intentions to send and read, 2) subjective norm and perceived behavior control predicted sending but not reading, 4) past behavior is the strongest predictor of intentions and behavior, and 4) adding group norms and moral norms (an addition to the Theory of Planned Behavior) strengthened the model they posited in the paper.
Ultimately, one of the best ways to deter people involves stressing that driving while texting is a shameful behavior, and that your friends do not do it, nor do they approve of it. Think of how you never thought a thing of one-time-only usage bags for your groceries, until you realized you were one of the only people who didn’t bring their own. Others retain a large hold on our behaviors even though we would like to think we left this behind long-ago in high school.
Nemme, H. E., & White, K. M. (2010). Texting while driving: Psychosocial influences on young people’s texting intentions and behavior. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 42, 1257-1265.