Novel Smartphone-Based Measures of Cell Phone Use While Driving in a Sample of Newly Licensed Adolescent Drivers

Abstract [from journal]

Background: Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of adolescent death. Cell phone use while driving is a contributor to adolescent motor vehicle crash risk. Objective and directly observable measures of cell phone use while driving are needed to implement interventions aimed at reducing cell phone–related crash risk. 

Aims: To describe novel smartphone-based measures of cell phone use while driving in a sample of newly licensed male and female adolescent drivers. 

Methods: Newly licensed adolescents in Pennsylvania installed a windshield-mounted device that pairs with a smartphone application to collect data on cell phone use while driving over 2 weeks during June 2016–October 2016. Descriptive statistics, independent t tests, and Wilcoxin Mann-Whitney U test were used to characterize handheld cell phone use (“unlock”) and call time while accounting for driving exposure. 

Results: Data from 16 adolescents (50% male) resulted in 5,624 miles in 705 trips, 964 cell phone unlocks, and 146.22 minutes of call time. Participants had a mean of 23.96 unlocks/100 miles (SD = 22.97), 1.23 unlocks/trip (SD = 0.96), and 4.87 unlocks/hour driven (SD = 3.93). Males had significantly more unlocks/100 miles, unlocks at speed >25 mph/100 miles, unlocks/hour driven, and unlocks at speed > 25 mph/hour driven (p < .05). 

Conclusions: Smartphone-based applications are an innovative means by which to collect continuous data on cell phone use while driving that can be used to better understand and intervene on this frequent behavior in newly licensed adolescent drivers.