An overwhelming majority of teenagers are clearly aware of the risks of texting while driving, but continue to indulge in such practices because they believe they can control those risks. However, those tendencies can be curtailed if public service announcements targeting teenage drivers specifically include graphic images of death.
Washington State University researchers recently studied and analyzed texting while driving among teenage drivers, and also analyzed public service announcements that are currently being used to help reduce the risks of distracted driving or specifically texting while driving among teenagers. The Department of Transportation currently has a very strong focus on preventing texting while driving among teenagers, because this group of motorists has much higher rates of smart phone use while driving. When you introduce smart phone use at the wheel to a category of motorists that is already at a very high risk of crashes, the consequences can be severe.
The researchers found that most teenagers related very strongly to the skull and cross bones image as a symbol of death. When the researchers used those images in a series of public service announcements, and compared the effect of exposure to public service announcements that did not have such graphic images of death, they found that the teens responded more to the PSAs that had the skull and cross bones image. When the teenagers were exposed to these public service announcements, they reported lower levels of intention to text while driving.
The researchers recommend that makers of public service announcements up their game to include more images that connect teenagers to the very real risk of a serious accident when the user is texting at the wheel.