Motivation and emotion/Book/2019/Mobile phone use while driving motivation

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Mobile phone use while driving:
What motivates mobile phone use while driving?

Overview[edit | edit source]

The use of a handheld mobile phone device whilst operating a motor vehicle is currently illegal in over 30 countries (NRMA, 2019). The punishment varies from country to country, however, most countries implement a fine and demerit point loss to the individual.

Mobiles[grammar?] phones have been found to be significantly dangerous to the individual whilst driving, increasing the risk of an accident by four-fold (NRMA, 2019). Phones create a distraction to the user, which creates problems for the driver such as slower reaction time, poor situational awareness and erratic speed maintenance (White, Eiser & Harris, 2004). Despite the evidence about risks, individuals are highly motivated to use their mobile phone whilst driving. These motivations are critical in determining why individuals take the risk, and how we can stop future risk taking.

This chapter explains why individuals continue to break the law and use mobile phones while driving despite the significant risks and implications. This chapter also investigates individual motivators for drivers to use phones whilst driving such as the theory of planned behaviour, phone addiction, and self-esteem issues.

Mobile phone use[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. Hand held mobile phone use while driving.

Since the introduction of mobile phones, there has been a growing concern regarding road safety and driver distraction

(McEvoy, Stevenson & Woodward, 2006). Driver distraction can be the cause of nearly 80% of car accidents, and can also account for up to 65% of near miss accidents (Nikolaev, Robbins, Jacobson, 2010). Distraction can take place in numerous forms, however, hand-held mobile phone use can contribute to major forms of distraction. Additionally, hands-free mobile phone use can cause distraction, albeit to a lesser extent.

Hand held phone use[edit | edit source]

Mobile phone use is very prevalent, therefore, the prevalence of individual's[grammar?] using their phone whilst driving has also significantly increased. See Figure 1 for an example of handheld phone use while driving. Handheld mobile phone use is illegal in over 30 countries and poses the greatest danger to individual's[grammar?] while driving[factual?]. Phones are used while driving for several reasons, including:

  • Phone calls
  • Texting
  • Social media
  • Changing music

Handheld phone use has been found to significantly increase the risk of an accident whilst driving[factual?]. The more cognitively demanding the action is, the more distracted from driving the individual becomes, which results in poorer driver performance and increased likelihood of an accident (White, Eiser & Harris, 2004). Handheld phone use has been found to negatively impact driving by reducing reaction time, poorer performance on lane awareness and tracking, braking awareness, and consistent speed regulation (Nikolaev, Robbins, & Jacobson, 2010). Handheld phone use contributes to driver distraction by temporarily dividing the individual;s[grammar?] attention from their primary task (driving) to a secondary task like using a mobile phone. Mobile phone use can cause driver distraction through visual, cognitive, physical and auditory pathways (WHO, 2011)

Visual - looking away from the road to respond to the phone

Cognitive - Responding to a conversation on the phone instead of analyzing the road for hazards

Physical - Texting on the phone requiring a hand being removed from the steering wheel

Auditory - Sound of the phone call or radio inhibits the identification of relevant driving sounds such as ambulance sirens

The distraction that is caused by using a hand-held phone while driving has the greatest impact on the youngest and oldest drivers[grammar?] age categories. Inexperienced younger drivers aged under 25 have the greatest difficulty to effectively divide their attention between multiple tasks[factual?]. In comparison, older drivers over the age of 50 have declining visual and cognitive abilities which can negatively impact reaction time when combined with a driver distraction (WHO, 2011).

Hands free phone use[edit | edit source]

A mobile phone can be legally used whilst operating a motor vehicle if it is used in conjunction with a hands free device. A hands free device must not interfere with the driver's vision and must be able to be operated with only minor touches on the phone, or be Bluetooth compatible. Hands free devices have seen major market expansion due to the heavy mobile phone reliance in current society. They are legal alternatives to using your mobile phone whilst driving, and were created to reduce driver distraction and improve driving performance while using a phone (WHO, 2011)

Society and the law view hands free devices as acceptable and safe alternatives to using your phone while driving. However, evidence suggests that a hands free device can be just as dangerous and distracting to a driver (WHO, 2011). Research has found that driver distraction can last for minutes after a phone call has finished at similar levels to using a hand-held device which negatively affects driver performance. Hands free phone use has been found to decrease visual monitoring whilst driving which results in decreased driving abilities (WHO, 2011).

Hands free phone use has been found to use compensatory behaviour which has contributed to its lack of effectiveness in reducing driver distraction. When engaging in risky behaviour such as using a handheld phone, drivers slow down and increase the distance between themselves and other cars in order to counteract the risky behaviour (WHO, 2011). Whereas, when using a hands free phone, the driver takes no additional safety measures as it is deemed legal and there is no apparent safety risks (WHO, 2011). This mindset contributes to the added dangers of hands free phone use whilst driving. Evidence suggests that the use of a hands free device has no positive effect on driving performance and is no safer to the driver than using a hand held phone (WHO, 2011).

Case study

In 2014, a 7 year old boy named Seth was crossing the road out the front of his house in the UK. He was struck by a female who was using a hands-free phone device whilst driving. As a result of the legality of the phone use, the driver was only fined for careless driving. Seth was killed as a result of his injuries. Seth's mother spoke of the lack of research regarding the safety of hands-free mobile devices, and that the distraction of using your phone is unsafe and dangerous (BBC, 2019)

Psychological motives[edit | edit source]

Psychological motives are processes of arousal that initiate and sustain goal-directed behaviour (Sailor, Heinz, Mandl & Klevers, 2013). Psychological motives drive our behaviour as humans until the drive subsidizes[spelling?] and the desired goal is achieved (Sailor, Heinz, Mandl & Klevers, 2013). Motivation can express itself in numerous forms, from biological, psychological and unconscious drives (Hill, 1987). The psychological need for affiliation and social contact is the main motivator of mobile phone use while driving. Mobile phones provide the opportunity to feel connected with others, and it is this need for affiliation which drives the behaviour (Hill, 1987). The psychological motives identified that can influence mobile phone use whilst driving are the theory of planned behaviour (TPB), addiction and self-esteem.

Theory of planned behaviour[edit | edit source]

Figure 2. Diagram portraying the theory of planned behaviour

The theory of planned behaviour (TPB) is a social cognitive model proposed by Icek Ajzen that explains behavioural intentions (Hagger & Chatzisarantis, 2005). The TPB is the most widespread psychological theory which attempts to explain human social behaviour and what influences it (Ajzen, 2011). The TPB model states that an individual's intentions are influenced by attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavioural control (White, Walsh, Hyde & Watson, 2007). This is displayed in Figure 2.

The TPB is a rational based behaviour model with a main focus on controlled aspects of human information processing. It is aimed at goal-directed behaviours which are conscious self-regulatory processes (Ajzen, 2011).

Attitudes towards the behaviour by the individual influence whether the act is completed. Does the action have a positive or negative personal/societal view?

Expectations towards the behaviour and what the likely consequence of the behaviour influence our attitude toward such behaviour[grammar?]. If the consequence of the behaviour is shame or pain, our attitude towards the behaviour is negative and is less likely to be performed (Ajzen, 2011). If the likely consequence of the behaviour is pride or elation, the attitude towards the behaviour is positive and is more likely to be carried out (Ajzen, 2011). The more positive the perceived attitude toward the behaviour, the stronger the chance the behaviour is performed (Armitage & Conner, 2001).

Subjective norms refers to the social pressure to perform or not perform the behaviour, does everyone else do it?

Subjective norms refers to the social approval or disapproval of a behaviour and the likely social consequence of the behaviour if performed (Armitage & Conner, 2001). Social pressure is a key motivator in many instances,[grammar?] you may feel pressured to perform an act, or pressured to stop a behaviour (Armitage & Conner, 2001). If society views a behaviour as favourable and beneficial, the individual is more likely to perform this behaviour due to the positive social pressure. If society rejects a behaviour and views it negatively, social pressure motivates the individual to cease the behaviour and not perform it (Armitage & Conner, 2001).

Perceived behavioural control (PBC) is the personal ability to carry out the behaviour, can I complete it easily?[grammar?]

Perceived behavioural control refers to the individual's perceived ability to perform a behaviour, not their actual ability to perform the behaviour. This can lead to some inconsistencies in motivations regarding behaviours (Armitage & Conner, 2011). When an individual is faced with a behaviour which has strong attitude intentions and positive subjective norms, their PBC will be high, and the likelihood of the behaviour occurring will also be high (Armitage & Conner, 2001). However, perceived ability does not mean actual ability, and as a result, the behaviour may not be performed due to ability constraints (Armitage & Conner, 2001). PBC can still be deemed as a successful predictor of behavioural intentions as it does influence motivations to perform a behaviour, regardless of whether or not the behaviour can be successfully performed (Armitage & Conner, 2001).

Addiction[edit | edit source]

The dramatic rise of mobile phones has created numerous benefits to modern society. However, there have been negative outcomes as a result of mobile phones. Due to the rapid increase of mobile phones, there have been numerous psychological factors which are relevant to the modern society. This includes mobile phone addiction, dependence and impulsivity towards mobile phone use.

High levels of impulsivity and dependence have been linked to other psychological disorders such as substance abuse and gambling addictions (Billieux, Van der Linden, d'Acremont, Ceschi & Zermatten, 2007). Addiction is classified as a compulsive behaviour that occurs at the expense of most other behaviours. An addiction is formed when an individual is positively reinforced to a pleasurable behaviour, and the behaviour is then continued to avoid withdrawal symptoms (Robinson & Berridge, 2000). Addiction symptoms can be prevalent through numerous behaviours, such as physiological cues like cravings and negative mood (Andrade, May & Kavanagh, 2012). An addiction has negative affects[grammar?] on an individuals[grammar?] life when they are without the addicted item, but when with the addicted item, there can also be many negative consequences. When the addiction item is taken away, the individual can experience anger and irritability, but when the item is present the individual could experience poor attention to surroundings and social isolation (Andrade, May & Kavanagh, 2012).

Addiction is the extreme circumstance of the brain's reward or want system. When a behaviour is rewarded or is enjoyable, the brain releases a neurotransmitter known as dopamine (Berridge & Robinson, 2016). Dopamine is the major motivator in the reward part of the brain, and therefore, the brain constantly seeks out dopamine release through enjoyable and rewarding activities (Berridge & Robinson, 2016). Addiction can occur when the brain is constantly seeking out a particular behaviour, and therefore, the individual is unhappy when the behaviour is not being performed. The dopamine levels will eventually decrease to a particular behaviour, so the individual will increase the behaviour in order to increase the dopamine production (Berridge & Robinson, 2016). The desire for dopamine results in the individual becoming addicted to performing the behaviour (Berridge & Robinson, 2016).

Self-esteem[edit | edit source]

Self-Esteem was a concept first introduced in the 19th century by the famous psychologist William James. Self-esteem is an individual's own sense of value or worth, and can have major implications for that individual's decision making (Mruk, 2006). An individual evaluates themselves and forms a self-identity based upon their perceived value and worth. Self-esteem can be boosted or hindered from the individual's social environment and relationships (Bianchi & Phillips, 2005). Self-esteem is particularly malleable and flexible at a younger age, this is due to an underdeveloped sense of self worth and meaning (Bianchi & Phillips, 2005). As you grow older, you have a greater sense of purpose and a better understanding of your self-worth (Bianchi & Phillips, 2005)

Low self-esteem has been largely linked to negative outcomes such as poor confidence which can stem into poor interpersonal relationship and mental illness. On the other hand, high self-esteem can be largely put into the positive outcome category, resulting in strong personal relationships and greater feelings of self worth (Mruk, 2006).

Psychological motives affecting mobile phone use while driving[edit | edit source]

Psychological motives of the TPB, addiction and self-esteem all motivate individuals to engage in mobile phone use whilst driving. There are numerous factors that contribute to this motivation which can be used to explain dangerous driving behaviours.

TPB and phone use while driving[edit | edit source]

The theory of planned behaviour can be used as an accurate predictor of behaviour due to assessing beliefs and attitudes towards a behaviour. Through the use of TPB we can determine what influences individual's[grammar?] to use their mobile phone while driving and what measures can be put in place to prevent the behaviour (Walsh et al., 2008).

In a study conducted by McEvoy, Stevenson & Woodward (2006) on mobile phone use while driving. They found that drivers who reported using a mobile phone while operating a vehicle perceived the risk of accident as significantly less than drivers who reported not using a phone. As a result, the at risk driver group perceived their risk of accident as low and their ability to use their phone and drive effectively at the same time as achievable. These factors contributed to their motivations to use the mobile phone whilst driving.

Texting and speaking on the phone was found to be more prevalent in individuals with a greater self-perceived ability (Edwards & Wundersitz, 2019). The perceived behavioural control over the situation outweighed the negative impacts the behaviour had on driving ability. The perceived ability of the individual to perform the task took priority over the dangers of the behaviour and therefore, motivates the use of the phone while driving. (Edwards & Wundersitz, 2019).

Addiction and phone use while driving[edit | edit source]

Addiction is very prevalent in modern society, especially with the rapid growth of technology and mobile phone use. This is evident in individual's[grammar?] who choose to continue mobile phone use while operating a motor vehicle. Despite the action being illegal and dangerous, the behaviour is performed due to this addiction where they cannot be without their phone.

The stronger the personal attachment to the mobile phone, the greater the likelihood it will be used whilst driving (Edwards & Wundersitz, 2019). This is due to the fact that the individual has a lower perceived risk of danger due to this addiction (Edwards & Wundersitz, 2019). The addiction to the phone is known as possession attachment, and this is where the individual feels uneasy and uncomfortable without the mobile phone (Edwards & Wundersitz, 2019). As a result, not using the phone causes distress to the individual, and motivates mobile phone use while driving to alleviate this feeling.

Western Australia's mobile phone addiction is costing drivers upwards of 1 million dollars in fines. In the first 6 months of 2017, 9017 fines were handed out to drivers who were using their phone,[grammar?] this averages to 50 drivers a day. In 2017 there was an increase of 18.5% of fines handed out compared to the previous calendar year. The rapid increase of mobile phone use while driving was alarming and leaving law-enforcement authorities frustrated (Campbell, 2017).

Self-esteem and phone use while driving[edit | edit source]

The social evaluation an individual makes of themselves has a major impact on that individual's self-esteem. Social relationships and acceptance often guide our decision making in order to maintain a high social standpoint, or in attempt to improve our social status (Bianchi & Phillips, 2005). Self-esteem can affect our decision making and can lead individual's[grammar?] to make poor decisions in order to match the status quo. This is evident in mobile phone use while driving.

Low self-esteem can influence an individual to be on their phone in order to gain social capital and become more popular. Low self-esteem has also been positively associated with higher levels of mobile phone use and dependence (Ehrenberg, Juckes, White & Walsh, 2008). Mobile phone use is highly prevalent in low self-esteem individuals as it is their form of social contact. Non face-to-face contact is preferable to low self-esteem individuals and as a result, this technology reliance promotes mobile phone use while driving (Enrenberg, Juckes, White & Walsh, 2008).

High self-esteem can influence an individual to be on their phone in order to reply to an influx of messages and calls and maintain their high social standing. Individuals have been found to have a materialistic orientation and use a mobile phone as an expression of values, attitudes and social-identity (Walsh, White & Young, 2010)[Rewrite to improve clarity]. As a result, to maintain social status and fulfill these behaviours, the individual is motivated to use their mobile phone whilst driving. This is particularly prevalent when the behaviour is positively reinforced by the environment and the individual has extrinsic motivation such as social approval (Walsh, White & Young, 2010).

Social status and self-esteem issues are at the forefront of mobile phone use while driving. Handheld phone use such as texting, receiving a phone call or scrolling social media are major predictors of risky driving behaviours. Social pressure and maintaining a social status was found to be a significant predictor to engage in mobile phone use while driving (Edwards & Wundersitz, 2019).

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Mobile phone use while driving is becoming an increasing problem in modern society. Therefore, the motivations behind this problematic driving behaviour are crucial in determining why individuals engage in it, and how it can be stopped. The TPB, mobile phone addiction, and self-esteem are all motivators for mobile phone use while driving, and can be used as predictors for this dangerous driving behaviour. All of these motivators can significantly influence an individual to engage in risky driving behaviours and mobile phone use will negatively impact on driving ability[Rewrite to improve clarity].

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Ajzen, I. (2011). The theory of planned behaviour: reactions and reflections. Psychology & Health, 26, 1113-1127. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2011.613995

Andrade, J., May, J., & Kavanagh, D. (2012). Sensory imagery in craving: from cognitive psychology to new treatments for addiction. Journal Of Experimental Psychopathology, 3, 127-145. doi: 10.5127/jep.024611

Armitage, C., & Conner, M. (2001). Efficacy of the Theory of Planned Behaviour: A meta-analytic review. British Journal Of Social Psychology, 40, 471-499. doi: 10.1348/014466601164939

BBC. (2019). Hands-free phone driving ban 'should be looked at'. Retrieved 14 October 2019, from

Berridge, K., & Robinson, T. (2016). Liking, wanting, and the incentive-sensitization theory of addiction. American Psychologist, 71, 670-679. doi: 10.1037/amp0000059

Bianchi, A., & Phillips, J. (2005). Psychological predictors of problem mobile phone use. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 8, 39-51. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2005.8.39

Billieux, J., Van der Linden, M., d'Acremont, M., Ceschi, G., & Zermatten, A. (2007). Does impulsivity relate to perceived dependence on and actual use of the mobile phone?. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 21, 527-537. doi: 10.1002/acp.1289

Campbell, K. (2017). WA’s deadly mobile phone addiction while driving. Retrieved 21 October 2019, from

Edwards, S., & Wundersitz, L. (2019). Distracted driving: Prevalence and motivations. Centre For Automotive Safety Research.

Ehrenberg, A., Juckes, S., White, K. M., & Walsh, S. P. (2008). Personality and self-esteem as predictors of young people's technology use. Cyberpsychology & behavior, 11, 739-741

Hagger, M., & Chatzisarantis, N. (2005). First- and higher-order models of attitudes, normative influence, and perceived behavioural control in the theory of planned behaviour. British Journal Of Social Psychology,44, 513-535. doi: 10.1348/014466604x16219

Hill, C. (1987). Affiliation motivation: People who need people . . . but in different ways. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 52, 1008-1018. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.52.5.1008

McEvoy, S., Stevenson, M., & Woodward, M. (2006). Phone use and crashes while driving: a representative survey of drivers in two Australian states. Medical Journal Of Australia, 185, 630-634. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2006.tb00734.x

Mruk, C. (2006). Self-esteem research, theory, and practice. New York: Springer Pub.

Nikolaev, A., Robbins, M., & Jacobson, S. (2010). Evaluating the impact of legislation prohibiting hand-held cell phone use while driving. Transportation Research Part A: Policy And Practice, 44, 182-193. doi: 10.1016/j.tra.2010.01.006

Robinson, T., & Berridge, K. (2000). The psychology and neurobiology of addiction: an incentive-sensitization view. Addiction, 95, 91-117. doi: 10.1046/j.1360-0443.95.8s2.19.x

Sailer, M., Hense, J., Mandl, H., & Klevers, M. (2013). Psychological perspectives on motivation through gamification. Interaction Design And Architecture, (19), 28-37.

Walsh, Shari P. and White, Katherine M. and Hyde, Melissa K. and Watson, Barry C. (2008) Dialling and driving: Factors influencing intentions to use a mobile phone while driving. Accident Analysis and Prevention 40, 1893-1900.

Walsh, S., White, K., Hyde, M., & Watson, B. (2007). Psychosocial factors influencing mobile phone use while driving. ATSB RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS REPORT ROAD SAFETY RESEARCH GRANT REPORT 2007, 1-129. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2008.07.005

Walsh, S. P., White, K. M., & Young, R. M. (2010). Needing to connect: The effect of self and others on young people's involvement with their mobile phones. Australian journal of psychology, 62, 194-203.

White, M., Eiser, J., & Harris, P. (2004). Risk perceptions of mobile phone use while driving. Risk Analysis,, 323-334. doi: 10.1111/j.0272-4332.2004.00434.x

WHO. (2011). WHO | Mobile phone use: a growing problem of driver distraction. Retrieved 14 October 2019, from

External[edit | edit source]