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202 Cell phone use and a pattern of risk behaviors associated with crashes in young adult drivers: implications for policy
  1. Elizabeth Walshe,
  2. Nicole Wen,
  3. Flaura Winston
  1. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia


Statement of Purpose Young drivers under the age of 24 are involved in more fatal crashes featuring cell phone distraction than any other age group (NHTSA, 2019). Unfortunately, statewide policies prohibiting cell phone use while driving fail to show consistent reductions in motor vehicle crashes (MVC) (McCartt et al., 2014). This study tested if cell phone use while driving is but one manifestation of a pattern of risk taking among young adult drivers.

Methods/Approach A sample of young drivers across the US aged 18–24 (n=384) completed an online survey capturing crash and citation history, engagement in risk-related driving behaviors (including intentional violations and driving errors from the DBQ, and additional cell phone use items), impulsivity, and demographic information. A confirmatory factor analysis tested a latent structure of risk-related driving behaviors identified in a prior study (Walshe et al., 2018), along with alternative models. Associations between variables were examined with correlation coefficients and regression analysis.

Results Almost half of the sample (44.5%) reported involvement in at least one MVC as a driver. The majority also reported engaging in cell phone calls while driving (73.2%, n=281) and texting while driving (61.7%, n=237). A 2-factor structure was confirmed, revealing that cell phone use loaded highly on a latent factor largely consisting of intentional driving violations. A binary logistic regression revealed a significant association between the probability of reporting a crash and this reckless driving factor (Wald=4.058, p=0.044) as well as impulsivity (Wald=8.602, p=0.003).

Conclusions These findings suggest that cell phone use does not represent a unique source of reckless driving behavior associated with crashes.

Significance and Contributions Interventions for improving driver safety should adopt a holistic approach addressing patterns of risk-taking in young drivers.

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