Study into sneaky texting behind the wheel earns top honour
QUT Honours student Cassandra Gauld has been awarded the 2012 RACQ Best 4th Year Psychology Thesis in Road Safety for her Australian-first study of young drivers (aged 17 - 25) who secretly text message while behind the wheel.
The QUT Faculty of Health graduate, who was presented with the award at a ceremony in Brisbane last night (February 13), said text messaging while driving was more distracting and therefore more dangerous than talking on a mobile phone.
Ms Gauld said it was important to look at the perceptions of young drivers who undertook this dangerous and illegal behaviour.
"Text messaging is visually distracting, physically distracting and mentally distracting," Ms Gauld said.
"It involves a person finding the phone, reading and composing a message, and focusing their eyes inside the vehicle."
As part of her study, Ms Gauld found young drivers who thought text messaging was acceptable while driving, perceived they had a good level of control over it.
She said they were also more likely to conceal their actions.
"What my study found, was that young drivers who considered text messaging an immoral behaviour were less likely to do it," Ms Gauld said.
"It would be advantageous for education and advertising campaigns to focus on challenging these perceptions in order to ensure young drivers reconsider their engagement in this very risky behaviour."
Ms Gauld, who this month will embark on a PhD with QUT's CARRS-Q, said she was honoured to receive the award for her thesis and hoped it would pave the way for further research into the dangers of text messaging while driving.
"Sometimes we may forget how important it is to maintain our attention on the road, so winning this RACQ award, is, for me, a timely reminder that anything that distracts us from the primary task of driving is potentially lethal," she said.
"I am looking forward to starting my PhD which will build on this research by focusing more broadly on driver distraction in young people, and the development of advertising countermeasures."
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