Mechanisms behind distracted driving behavior: The role of age and executive function in the engagement of distracted driving

Caitlin Northcutt Pope, Tyler Reed Bell, Despina Stavrinos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Performing secondary tasks, such as texting while driving, is associated with an increased risk of motor vehicle collisions (MVCs). While cognitive processes, such as executive function, are involved in driving, little is known about the relationship between executive control and willingness to engage in distracted driving. This study investigated the relationship between age, behavioral manifestations of executive function, and self-reported distracted driving behaviors. Executive difficulty (assessed with the BRIEF-A) as well as demographics (age and gender) was considered as possible predictors of engagement in distracted driving behaviors. Fifty-nine young, middle, and older adults self-reported executive difficulty and weekly engagement in distracted driving behaviors. Results revealed that while partially accounted for by age, global executive difficulty was uniquely related to engagement in distracted driving behaviors. Older age was associated with fewer weekly self-reported distracted driving behaviors while higher self-reported executive difficulty was associated with more frequent weekly engagement in distracted behavior. No significant differences were found between young and middle-aged adults on distracted driving behaviors. Findings conclude that distracted driving is a ubiquitous phenomenon evident in drivers of all ages. Possible mechanisms underlying distracted driving behavior could potentially be related to deficits in executive function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-129
Number of pages7
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd


  • Adolescent drivers
  • Distracted driving
  • Executive function
  • Older drivers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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