Skip to main content

Rethinking cell phone use while driving: Isolated risk behavior or a pattern of risk-taking associated with impulsivity in young drivers?

This study examines whether cell phone use stands apart from a general pattern of risky driving practices associated with crashes and impulsivity-related personality traits in young drivers. A retrospective online survey study recruited 384 young drivers from across the United States using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to complete a survey measuring risky driving practices (including cell phone use), history of crashes, and impulsivity-related personality traits. Almost half (44.5%) of the drivers reported being involved in at least one crash, and the majority engaged in cell phone use while driving (up to 73%). Factor analysis and structural equation modeling found that cell phone use loaded highly on a latent factor with other risky driving practices that were associated with prior crashes (b = 0.15, [95% CI: 0.01, 0.29]). There was also an indirect relationship between one form of impulsivity and crashes through risky driving (b = 0.127, [95% CI: 0.01, 0.30]). Additional analyses did not find an independent contribution to crashes for frequent cell phone use. These results suggest a pattern of risky driving practices associated with impulsivity in young drivers, indicating the benefit of exploring a more comprehensive safe driving strategy that includes the avoidance of cell phone use as well as other risky practices, particularly for young drivers with greater impulsive tendencies.