QUEENSLAND, Australia — Here’s a frightening newsflash for drivers: a disturbing number of young motorists you pass on the roadways may be sending messages on social media while behind the wheel. A study by researchers at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia finds that one in six drivers between 17 and 25 years old have used Snapchat while driving.
The research team, led by researcher Verity Truelove of QUT’s Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety-Queensland, surveyed 503 local drivers ages 17 to 25. They also interviewed 60 additional drivers during in-person focus groups. About one in every respondents (16%) admitted to using Snapchat on their mobile devices while driving. Of those, 15% said they have used their phone to send a video or photo over Snapchat while driving. Snapchat is a camera-based social media mobile app that allows users to send pictures and short videos to each other.
It seems that the urge to share an observation made in the car is the primary reason these drivers take such a risk to send the photo or video.
“Of that 15 percent, more than half (58 percent) said their primary motivation was to immediately share a video or photo of something they had seen while they were driving,” Truelove says in a media release. “The vast majority of these app users (71 percent) said they most commonly used it while stopped at a red light, but three per cent said they most commonly used Snapchat while driving at any speed.”
Yet despite the number of drivers who admit to the dangerous behavior, only 12% of those surveyed think that using Snapchat on the road was acceptable. And Truelove also points to the fact that 84% of drivers thankfully have never made the mistake. Still, 69% say they know someone who uses the popular app while driving — regularly.
Among some of the notable responses by those who took part in the focus groups:
- “I think people do it to be cool because I know a girl who was doing 65 in a school zone and then she took a Snapchat of it. I was like are you trying to kill someone here. I think people do it for the Snapchat, like look at me speeding and using my phone.”
- “I had a friend who was Snapchatting on like [X] road which is one of those country roads that are just like dead quiet and she crashed and she still Snapchats. Like how do you not learn your lesson from that?”
- “I Snapchat and drive!”
In all, there are over six million regular Snapchat users in Australia, two million of whom are between 18 and 24 years old. Overall, the app is often regarded as the most popular social media platform for people under 25 around the world.
Interestingly, the young drivers note that they didn’t think that they were likely to ever be caught by police for using their phones behind the wheel. That means that fines for distracted driving may not be a frightening enough deterrent.
“Looking across the survey and focus groups we conducted, a common theme was that the drivers who used Snapchat thought it was a relatively safe practice because they used it at times they perceived to be low risk, such as when they were stopped at traffic lights,” says Truelove.
The study is published in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention.