Death imagery may curb willingness to text and drive: study

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Pullman, WA – Public service announcements with strong emotional references to death may change people’s willingness to text while driving, according to a recent study from Washington State University.

Researchers asked a nationally representative sample of 224 drivers between the ages of 18 and 49 to view four print PSAs featuring the headline “Texting While Driving: A Dangerous Combination” and copy saying, “Please don’t text and drive.” Three of the PSAs were altered to evoke a fear of death: one included fatality statistics, another had a skull-and-crossbones symbol, and the third used both statistics and the symbol.

The researchers found that the three PSAs created to evoke fear of death made participants significantly more apprehensive about texting while driving. The skull-and-crossbones symbol had the greatest effect, researchers said.

The findings were reported in the Journal of Consumer Affairs.