James Madison University

Practice Safe Text: An Intervention to Reduce Texting while Driving

By: Nora Murphy
Posted: May 23, 2016

Reggie Shaw, a national safe driving advocate, visited JMU on March 28, 2016 to speak about his experience with texting while driving. Reggie had been involved in a major car accident caused by texting while driving which took the lives of two people. He speaks at locations across the country about 50 times a year. Reggie’s emotional testimony highlights the dangers of texting while driving, and he illustrates the point that it can happen to anyone.

The Psychology Department’s Social Influence Lab hosted an event called Practice Safe Text which drew students from a variety of majors. Some students attended for class credit, others came because of genuine interest, but many students were affected by Reggie’s honest and authentic speech. Practice Safe Text also showcased a short documentary, From One Second to the Next, which told the stories of numerous individuals whose lives have been forever changed by texting while driving accidents. Some had lost family members, some were severely disabled, and others, like Reggie, took the lives of others.

PHOTO: JMU students at event

The Social Influence Lab used this event for their research study, Assessing a Campus-Wide Intervention to Reduce Texting While Driving. (the picture above includes members of the Social Influence Lab with Reggie Shaw.)  Pre-tests and post-tests of students’ attitudes about texting while driving were handed out directly before and after the event, as well as an online survey two weeks after Practice Safe Text to measure the impact of this event. Many students reacted positively, stating in their survey that the event impacted them tremendously.  Many students committed to not using their phone behind the wheel.

Practice Safe Text was enormously successful. It promoted positive behavior change and started the conversation on campus about how texting while driving is truly an epidemic. Through interventions like this one and other social psychological research, the Social Influence Lab will continue to work towards safer roads and safer drivers. Hopefully, the JMU community will see the positive impact of Practice Safe Text and continue to promote such interventions in the future.