Although we know that texting while driving is wrong, many of us are still guilty of reading and replying to messages while behind the wheel. In fact, a new study says that we might not even be fully aware that we’re doing it.

Wanting to find out how unconscious thought processes trigger this response, researchers from the University of Michigan collated data on hundreds of undergraduate students by asking them to answer a questionnaire that tackles issues such as how often they text while driving, how automatic the action is, and what they think of it.

They found that the response is usually purely reflex. reports that this automatic action generally affects a person’s overall phone activities and influences what is thought as the norm regarding texting and driving.

"A texting cue, for instance, could manifest as a vibration, a 'new message' symbol, a peripheral glance at a phone, an internal 'alarm clock,' a specific context or perhaps a mental state. In the case of more habitual behavior, reacting to these cues becomes automatic to the point that the person may do so without even meaning to do it," Scott Campbell, associate professor of communication studies and Pohs Professor of Telecommunications, explains.

So how do you avoid it if you’re not even aware of it? You can also create another habit to "overwrite" it; change your message alert tone, and train yourself to ignore your ring tone. It won’t be easy, but at least you’ll slowly become conscious of it. By doing this, you’ll be a safer driver, and you won’t ever have to go through the hassle of having a traffic officer catch you.

(Photo by KT King via Flickr Creative Commons)

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