Research Matters

Research Matters

Talking, Texting and Driving

An undergraduate at KU has studied the habits and motives of people who simultaneously drive and use cell phones. Most drivers see their own conversations and text messages as important enough to take risks on the road.

Aired April 21, 2008

2 minutes (2.5 MB) | Download mp3


Research conducted by an undergraduate student sheds light on drivers' risky cell phone habits. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I'm Brendan Lynch.

KU cognitive psychology major and graduating senior Erik Nelson researchED why - despite the risks - people talk on cell phones while driving. Every single participant in Nelson's study owning both a mobile telephone and a motor vehicle - all 276 of them - admitted to talking on their phones behind the wheel.

Erik Nelson: "These were pretty alarming numbers to us. You have people who that know that driving is dangerous to do while talking on a cellular phone, however they do it anyway. And we just wanted to figure out why is this is happening."

What lessons did you get out of it and what do you hope people take away from reading about your research?

Erik Nelson: "Many people understand that talking while driving is a risky behavior. However they still do it. People tend to believe that their conversations are a little more important than they are. Some of the conversation types that we looked at - like talking to fend off boredom or something like that while driving - people surprisingly thought that that was pretty important to them. So, obvious, importance to people is highly skewed sometimes."

What's worse, Nelson found 72 percent of those owning a car and a cell phone admitted to text messaging while driving, an activity the participants themselves perceived as even more dangerous than chatting.

Erik Nelson: "You're trying to do two visual tasks at the same time - and that doesn't work out for most people. You see them swerving to the left, swerving to the right. You drive by them kind of fast, to get by quick, and you realize this person has been texting the whole time. So it's kind of a national epidemic."

For more about driving while talking and texting with a cell phone, log onto Research Matters dot K-U dot E-D-U. For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch.

Tell Me More

KU announces 15 winners of Undergraduate Research Awards

LAWRENCE - Fifteen University of Kansas students have received $1,200 Undergraduate Research Awards to be used from January to June 2007.

Undergraduate Research Awards support original, independent research by Lawrence campus undergraduates. The University Honors Program administers the awards with funds from the offices of the provost and the vice provost for research and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Read the full press release