Texting while Driving on Automatic: Considering the Frequency-Independent Side of Habit

Department of Communication Studies, University of Michigan, 105 South State Street, Ann Arbor, 48103 MI, United States
Computers in Human Behavior (Impact Factor: 2.69). 08/2012; 28(6). DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2012.06.012


This study tested the potential of the frequency-independent components of habit, or automaticity, to predict the rate of texting while driving. A survey of 441 college students at a large American university was conducted utilizing a frequency-independent version of the experimentally validated Self-Report Habit Index (SRHI; Orbell & Verplanken, 2010; Verplanken & Orbell, 2003). Controlling for gender, age, and driver confidence, analyses showed that automatic texting tendencies predicted both sending and reading texts while driving. The findings suggest that texting while driving behavior may be partially attributable to individuals doing so without awareness, control, attention, and intention regarding their own actions. The unique contribution of automaticity explained more variance than overall individual usage, and remained significant even after accounting for norms, attitudes, and perceived behavioral con-trol. The results demonstrate the importance of distinguishing the level of automaticity from behavioral frequency in mobile communication research. Future applications and implications for research are discussed.

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    • "Automaticity can also be used as a means of differentiating among individuals who are more or less likely to engage in particular behaviors automatically (Lally, van Jaarsveld, Potts, & Wardle, 2010). Previous research demonstrates a link between the tendency to engage in texting automatically and the rate that college students report texting while driving, controlling for texting frequency and other conscious factors such as attitudes and norms (Bayer & Campbell, 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: The problems of distracted driving and distracted pedestrian accidents have attracted the attention of public health officials, transportation and psychology researchers, and communication scholars. Though public safety campaigns intended to curb dangerous texting behaviors have been implemented, relatively little is known about the psychological processes involved in these behaviors. Our study integrates emerging research on automatic behavior, self-control, and mindfulness in an attempt to explain why many individuals believe that such behavior is dangerous but engage in it anyway. Our survey study (N = 925) of college students (n = 313) and adults (n = 612) revealed that texting automaticity, trait self-control, and the “acting with awareness” facet of trait mindfulness were all uniquely predictive of texting while driving as well as texting while walking. Further, we observe that texting automaticity is more strongly related to the frequency of texting while walking than driving. Together, the findings synthesize disparate strands of research on cognition and media use and demonstrate the importance of distinguishing among types of consciousness to understanding mobile communication behavior.
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    • "Over the long-term, the same non-conscious processes that save time on a normal basis can come to obtrude personal goals of the moment. Understanding connection cues may help in explaining puzzling outcomes of mobile media use ranging from dangerous driving (e.g., Bayer & Campbell, 2012) to frivolous checking (e.g., Drouin et al., 2012). Likewise, connection cues may contribute to overly routinized patterns of communication. "
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    ABSTRACT: Staying "connected" has become a societal norm and a personal habit. The goal of this article is to explain how individuals internalize-and activate-social connectedness during daily life. As such, we take a sociocognitive approach to integrate perspectives on implicit societal expectations (connection norms) and automatic individual behavior (connection habits). Based on this framework, we present a model for how nonconscious "triggers" to check a mobile device, or connection cues, affect the flow of communication. The model outlines types of connection cues, factors that moderate sensitivity to connection norms, and activation paths for connection habits. Altogether, connection cues determine when and where individuals "connect" through automatic perception.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2015 · Communication Theory
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    • "Their use can become an automated habit, driven by internal factors, such as the need to constantly stay informed and in touch with the social network, or by external triggers, i.e. a sound emitted by the phone. These triggers can appear at any time and in any situation, and consequently also while driving (Bayer and Campbell, 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: Phone use while driving has become one of the priority issues in road safety, given that it may lead to decreased situation awareness and deteriorated driving performance. It has been suggested that drivers can regulate their exposure to secondary tasks and seek for compatibility of phone use and driving. Phone use strategies include the choice of driving situations with low demands and interruptions of the interaction when the context changes. Traffic light situations at urban intersections imply both a temptation to use the phone while waiting at the red traffic light and a potential threat due to the incompatibility of phone use and driving when the traffic light turns green. These two situations were targeted in a roadside observation study, with the aim to investigate the existence of a phone use strategy at the red traffic light and to test its effectiveness. N = 124 phone users and a corresponding control group of non-users were observed. Strategic phone use behaviour was detected for visual–manual interactions, which are more likely to be initiated at the red traffic light and tend to be stopped before the vehicle moves off, while calls are less likely to be limited to the red traffic light situation. As an indicator of impaired situation awareness, delayed start was associated to phone use and in particular to visual–manual interactions, whether phone use was interrupted before moving off or not. Traffic light situations do not seem to allow effective application of phone use strategies, although drivers attempt to do so for the most demanding phone use mode. The underlying factors of phone use need to be studied so as to reduce the temptation of phone use and facilitate exposure regulation strategies.
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