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A Behavioral Economic Analysis of Demand for Texting while Driving


The overarching goal of the present study was to determine whether a behavioral economic framework of demand analysis is applicable to texting while driving. To this end, we developed a novel hypothetical task in which participants receive a text message while driving, and they rated the likelihood of replying to a text message immediately versus waiting to reply until arriving at a destination when the fine for texting while driving ranged from $1 to $300. The scenario presented two delays to a destination (15 min and 60 min). For drivers who self-reported a higher frequency of texting while driving the demand for social interaction from texting was more intense and less elastic. Demand was also more intense and less elastic under the 60-min delay condition. The results of this proof-of-concept study suggest that behavioral economic demand analyses are potentially useful for understanding and predicting texting while driving.

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Fig. 1.
Fig. 2.


  1. 1.

    The term “increased” is used to indicate the change in the probability of a motor vehicle crash due to texting while driving from the basal probability of a crash due to driving without texting. Note that the consequences of interest here concern only texting behavior. Therefore, the basal probability of a crash (by itself) is not referenced in our description for the sake of simplicity.

  2. 2.

    It is important to note that the exponent of 1.5 in Eq. 2 was determined for Hursh and Silberberg's (2008) exponential demand equation, and an equivalent for Koffarnus et al.’s (2015) exponentiated equation has not been determined yet. In this study, we use the exponent of 1.5 in calculating EV’s because our primary focus is to compare the groups and conditions within this study, but the readers are cautioned that the absolute values of the EV’s in the present study may not be appropriate for comparisons across studies.


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Author Note

We would like to thank Michael Andrew for his careful review of this paper. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Correspondence to Yusuke Hayashi.

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Hayashi, Y., Friedel, J.E., Foreman, A.M. et al. A Behavioral Economic Analysis of Demand for Texting while Driving. Psychol Rec 69, 225–237 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40732-019-00341-w

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  • Texting while driving
  • Demand analysis
  • Distracted driving
  • Behavioral economics
  • College students