Teenage Driver Cellular Phone Use During the First Months of Driving
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Distracted driving is a significant concern for novice teen drivers. Although cellular phone bans are applied in many jurisdictions to restrict cellular phone use, teen drivers often report making calls and texts while driving. Method The Minnesota Teen Driver Study incorporated cellular phone blocking functions via a software application for 182 novice teen drivers in two treatment conditions. The first condition included 92 teens who ran a driver support application on a smartphone that also blocked phone usage. The second condition included 90 teens who ran the same application with phone blocking but which also reported back to parents about monitored risky behaviors (e.g., speeding). A third control group consisting of 92 novice teen drivers had the application and phone-based software installed on the phones to record cellular phone (but not block it) use while driving. Results The two treatment groups made significantly fewer calls and texts per mile driven compared to the control group. The control group data also demonstrated a higher propensity to text while driving rather than making calls. Discussion Software that blocks cellular phone use (except 911) while driving can be effective at mitigating calling and texting for novice teen drivers. However, subjective data indicates that some teens were motivated to find ways around the software, as well as to use another teen's phone while driving when they were unable to use theirs. Practical applications Cellular phone bans for calling and texting are the first step to changing behaviors associated with texting and driving, particularly among novice teen drivers. Blocking software has the additional potential to reduce impulsive calling and texting while driving among novice teen drivers who might logically know the risks, but for whom it is difficult to ignore calling or texting while driving.