Honours student, Hazal Eren, and her supervisor Dr Cassandra Gauld, sought to understand why young drivers respond to social interactive technology in a concealed manner while driving, despite being aware of the crash risk and the legal penalties. Their survey study applied an extended Theory of Planned Behaviour which included the additional predictors of anticipated action regret, anticipated inaction regret, and problematic mobile phone usage. The study also sought to identify beliefs about this behaviour that were unique to young drivers who do it more often.
With an ever-increasing array of functions available, problematic smartphone usage is a concept that has been gaining traction over the past few years. Most scales measuring this concept are based on behavioural addiction models. For example, problematic phone usage can be characterised by feelings such as anxiety when without your smartphone and using your smartphone to make you feel better. It can also result in behaviours with serious safety implications, such as smartphone use while driving.
Indeed, this study found that young drivers who scored high on problematic phone usage were more likely to respond to social interactive technology in a concealed manner while driving. It also found that young drivers with a positive attitude towards responding in a concealed manner while driving, who believed they could do it easily, and who believed important others would approve of it were more likely to do it. Young drivers who anticipated a higher level of regret associated with it, were less likely to do it.
With regard to beliefs about the behaviour, young drivers who were more likely to respond in a concealed manner while driving believed that it allowed them to ‘communicate with important people’ and that their ‘partner’, ‘passengers’, ‘friends’, and ‘other drivers’ would approve of it.
Smartphone use among young drivers is a complex and dangerous issue. If this behaviour is to be eradicated (or even reduced) it is important to challenge the predictors and the key beliefs (e.g., perceived normative influences) in targeted interventions (e.g., public education messages). Hopefully, the new fixed smartphone detection cameras in NSW will detect concealed smartphone use; which may lead to a greater deterrent effect. With regard to problematic phone usage, perhaps we can learn from successful interventions addressing other behavioural addictions, such as gambling.
To know more about this work, email: Cassandra Gauld <Cass.Gauld@newcastle.edu.au>