Adolescents' perspectives on distracted driving legislation

Caitlin N. Pope, Jessica H. Mirman, Despina Stavrinos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Purpose: Distracted driving is a growing global epidemic, with adolescent drivers reporting frequent engagement in distracted driving behaviors. Public health initiatives and legislative efforts designed to decrease the prevalence of these unwanted driving behaviors have demonstrated small, but significant reductions in crash risk. Non-compliance is a known problem among drivers of all ages, but may be especially problematic for novice, adolescent drivers. Using a construct from the Health Belief Model, the relations between demographic factors, perceived threat to safety, and peer influences were investigated with adolescents' support for three types of distracted driving legislation regarding: (a) reading or sending text messages/emails while driving; (b) hand-held cell phone use while driving; and (c) using non-driving-related-in-vehicle (NDIV) technology while driving. Investigating adolescents' perceptions provides an opportunity to understand distracted driving enforcement and legislation. Methods: Three hundred and seventy-nine adolescents aged 15–19 (M = 16.12, SD = 0.56) were recruited from public high schools. Demographics, perceptions, and support regarding distracted driving were assessed using self-report surveys. Statistical analyses included bivariate correlations and adjusted odds ratios to investigate influences of adolescent support for distracted driving legislation. Results: Female adolescents were at 2 times greater odds of supporting a law against texting/emailing while driving compared to male adolescents. Greater perceived threat to safety was associated with all three types of distracted driving legislation (aOR = 1.10, 1.33). Minimal association was found with peer influences. Conclusions: Perceived threat to safety and gender were associated with legislative support in adolescents. Practical application: Interventions and public health campaigns that incorporate elements related to perceived threat may be more successful with female adolescent drivers than male adolescents. Future experimental research will help to determine what factors affect adolescents' perspectives on distracted driving to promote compliance with related legislation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-179
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Safety Research
StatePublished - Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Center for Transportation Systems Productivity and Management (NCTSPM) and U-Haul International, Inc. The opinions, views, or comments expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official positions of funding departments. The authors would like to acknowledge Translational Research for Injury Prevention (TRIP) Laboratory summer intern Ashley J. Williams for all of her insight and help with this project. A special thank you to the UAB Edward R. Roybal Center for Translational Research in Aging and Mobility NIA 2 P30 AG022838 , the UAB Department of Psychology, and the TRIP Laboratory.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd and National Safety Council


  • Adolescent
  • Distracted driving
  • Legislative support
  • Perceived threat to safety
  • Teen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality


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