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Young people who use phones while driving are more impulsive and aggressive, study finds

Experts say some driving behaviors could increase the risk of an accident

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A new study conducted by researchers from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia explored trends related to young adults’ driving habits. 

Their findings showed that when young people use their cell phones on the road, they’re more likely to adopt other impulsive, aggressive driving patterns. 

“This study found that frequent cell phone use while driving was only one indicator of a more general pattern of risky driving practices associated with prior crashes in young drivers,” said researcher Elizabeth Walshe, Ph.D. “Assessment of personality traits, such as impulsivity and sensation seeking, may be helpful to identify drivers most at risk in order to provide more targeted interventions promoting safe driving.” 

Identifying risky driving behaviors

For the study, the researchers surveyed nearly 400 young drivers from across the country. The group answered questions about their driving histories and styles, and they also took personality assessments to see how all of these factors influenced their habits behind the wheel. 

The researchers learned that using a cell phone in any capacity with driving was generally associated with more impulsive driving. Nearly three-quarters of the group reported using their phones while behind the wheel, which ultimately impacted other habits on the road. 

While cell phone use didn’t directly increase the risk of crashes, some of the other roadway behaviors that were associated with cell phone use may make accidents more likely. For instance, the study showed that young adults that use their phones behind the wheel were more likely to run red lights, exceed the speed limit, and make aggressive maneuvers.\

“It may be useful to treat cell phone use while driving as part of a group of risky driving behaviors, such as driving while impaired by alcohol,” said researcher Dan Romer, Ph.D. “For example, messages to enhance driver safety might focus on a large range of hazardous practices that place the driver and others at risk rather than citing only one, like cell phone use.” 

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