Scare Tactics Could Prevent Teen Texting and Driving

skull%20and%20crossbones.jpgThere is a reason why federal authorities are so concerned about widespread distracted driving by teenagers: Not only is this group of motorists already at a much higher risk of accidents, but also texting and driving is at epidemic proportions among teenage motorists. New research indicates that instead of using conventional public service announcements, scare tactics that evoke the fear of death could help encourage teenagers put away those cell phones while they’re driving.

The study, conducted by a group of Washington State University marketing professors, looked at the various methods currently used to discourage teenage texting and driving Most of these strategies involve the use of public service announcements or PSAs.

The challenge with reducing teenage texting while driving is that teenagers are already acutely aware that they are at a much higher risk of being involved in an injurious or fatal accident while driving. It is not lack of awareness behind the high rates of teen smartphone use at the wheel. It is the fact that teenagers are less likely to take those risks seriously. This is in large part because of age-related factors.

For instance, teenagers may suffer from a sense of invisibility. Teenagers also seem to have a superior opinion of their own driving skills, and may believe that they will be able to maintain control of a car, even if they are texting while driving. A typical teenager is likely to believe that the risk is not really that great, because he is only taking a couple of seconds to read a text.

However, the researchers wanted to go beyond conventional public service announcements, and look at the kind of strategies that would really help make teenagers understand that such practices are dangerous. They reviewed existing campaigns against texting while driving, and evaluated how effective these campaigns were in affecting attitudes towards distracted driving. They previously determined teenage drivers were more likely to connect emotionally with a skull and cross bones symbol as a symbol of death. That image seemed to remind teens of death overwhelmingly, compared to other images like crosses and tombstones.

The researchers exposed a different group of teenage participants to four PSA’s. Each PSA featured the same image of a texting driver and the headline, “Texting While Driving: a Dangerous Combination”. However, one PSA included the image of a skull and cross bones in addition to the tag line.

The researchers found that teenagers who were exposed to this image reported lower intention to text and drive.

The implications from this study’s findings indicate that public service announcement campaigns need to be updated, and made more graphic to reach some teenagers. It’s clear that the current campaigns targeting teenage drivers are simply not having the desired effect.

The Indiana personal injury lawyers at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson Kennedy LLP represent persons injured in car accidents.