- Cadet, Janine [Browse]
- Senior thesis
- Goldman, Noreen [Browse]
- Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
- Class year
- Summary note
Motor vehicle accidents have become a leading cause of death and injury among young adults in the United States. Comparable to drunk driving and speeding, cellphone use has become a significant contributor to many of these crashes. Hands-free cellphone use has increased due to car technology advancements and is promoted to be the legal and safer way to use cellphones while driving. However, past studies have shown that hands-free devices still impose high risk for drivers; therefore, hands-free cellphones are almost just as dangerous as hand held cellphones.
Perceptions of cellphone use while driving has been analyzed amongst young drivers to further understand why drivers put themselves at risk; however, few studies have yet to compare the difference between perceptions of using a hand held versus hands-free cellphone while driving. This thesis sought to determine these perceptions and analyze how these perceptions affect how often 18-35 year olds use cellphones while driving. Survey questionnaires were distributed to Princeton students and MTurk respondents. Analysis of the results consisted of frequency distributions, chi-squared tests, and logistic regression analysis in R Statistical Programming.
Risk perception (how dangerous a driver perceives a certain action) and skill perception (how well a driver believes they can maintain motor vehicle control while performing a certain action) were found to be the most significant predictors of whether a driver would talk on a hand held or hands free cellphone. Additionally, skill perception was the most significant predictor of how frequent a driver would use hand held cellphones. Perceived parent and friend usage of hand held and hands-free cellphones varied in its effect on whether a driver would talk on those devices; however, perceived friend usage was positively correlated to an increase in frequency for those that talk or text on a hand held device. Gender was found to have no effect on frequency of using a cellphone while driving. Knowledge of driving state laws was only marginally significant at reducing how often the Princeton students talked on a hand held device while driving.
Several policies are recommended based on the results of this thesis. All fifty states need to adopt a hand held cellphone ban as a primary state law and advertise these laws using dynamic message signs. Subsequently, stricter enforcement of these laws needs to be enacted by state police. In conjunction with these updated policies, a federally funded mass media campaign that highlights the dangers of hands-free cellphones in a graphic, but relatable appeal should be advertised across state lines. These three policy recommendations together should result in a reduction of cellphone use nation-wide, especially among young adult drivers.