Imagine this: Brandon is cut off by another driver who is swerving through traffic during rush hour. As the other driver was overtaking Brandon, he was infuriated to see that they were accomplishing the maneuver while using their mobile phone. Angered by this experience, Brandon reaches for his cell phone to tell his friends what he just witnessed—after all, he wasn’t the one speeding through traffic.
If this situation sounds like it is too cognitively dissonant to be true, you will be surprised that it is not a far-fetched story. Research has shown that a disconnect between belief and behavior is more of a common occurrence than many realize. In fact, those who think this sounds unbelievable may be more likely to have behaved in this manner before!
Distracted Driving in the United States
Each year, AAA’s Foundation for Travel Safety conducts a comprehensive survey that seeks to identify how driver’s feel and behave about safety on the road. The found that 87.5% of drivers believe distracted drivers are more of a problem than ever. In the age of the cellphone, many are distressed about the number of drivers they see using their devices while behind the wheel.
This concern isn’t misplaced.
With a closer look at the survey, a contradiction is exposed with the number of drivers who actually admit to using their phone while driving. The AAA survey found that 44.9% of drivers admit that they have read an email or text message while driving. Another 34.6% admitted that they have composed a text message or email while driving. Paradoxically, the very people who are saying they are concerned about distracted driving admit to doing the very thing they are worried about.
Somehow, many drivers have exempted themselves from being a danger while driving distracted.
Distracted Drivers and the Dunning-Kruger Effect
Psychology has found an explanation for this contradicting style of thought.
In 1999, social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger published a study that identified an interesting cognitive bias. Known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, the bias causes those who are not qualified to do a task believe that they are in fact very qualified to accomplish it.
With their research, the psychologists found that as someone’s ability to do a task decreases, they have an increasingly high amount of delusion that they can do it. This means that countless drivers are using their phone under the bias that they are somehow better at distracted driving than everyone else on the road. The problem persists because awareness of this bias does not exist.
So, the question must be asked:
How do you stop a problem that people aren’t aware of?
This question does not have a definitive answer. Instead, we must actively seek to educate one another on how our minds work. Doing so might just make someone think twice about picking up their phone when they are behind the wheel. With distracted driving causing far too many wrongful deaths and , awareness might just be the best tool for saving lives.