Statement of purpose Adolescents are at an increased risk of cell phone-related distracted driving. Legislation may dissuade driver behaviour. This study investigated the relationship between legislation and cell phone use while driving across adolescent driver sub-groups by age (16/17 vs. 18), sex, race/ethnicity (White, African American, Hispanic, and Others), rurality (urban, rural), and region (Northeast, Midwest, South, and West).
Methods Data from the 2011–2014 Traffic Safety Culture Index Surveys were combined with state legislation. The outcomes were self-reported texting or hand-held phone conversations. The exposure was the presence of a texting or hand-held cell phone ban applicable to all drivers (i.e. universal) in the drivers’ state of residence. Modified Poisson regression estimated the risk of engaging in these behaviours. Sub-group differences were assessed via models with interaction terms.
Results Approximately 34% of respondents conversed on cell phones and 37% texted while driving in the 30 days prior to survey. With exceptions to African American, rural, and Midwestern drivers, universal hand-held bans were associated with lower cell phone conversations across all groups. Overall, hand-held phone bans were associated with 55% lower [adjusted risk ratio (aRR) 0.45, 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.31, 0.64) cell phone conversations. With exceptions to Hispanics (aRR=0.41, 95% CI 0.22, 0.78), universal texting bans were not associated with lower texting behaviours among groups.
Conclusions Universal hand-held bans may deter adolescent drivers from hand-held phone conversations, while universal texting bans may not discourage texting behaviours while driving. More interventional or educational work may be necessary, particularly for texting while driving.
Significance to Injury Prevention This is the first study to assess the relationship between self-reported driver hand-held cell phone conversations and legislation among adolescent sub-groups.