Compulsive cell phone use and history of motor vehicle crash

Stephen S. O'Connor, Jennifer M. Whitehill, Kevin M. King, Mary A. Kernic, Linda Ng Boyle, Brian W. Bresnahan, Christopher D. Mack, Beth E. Ebel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose Few studies have examined the psychological factors underlying the association between cell phone use and motor vehicle crash. We sought to examine the factor structure and convergent validity of a measure of problematic cell phone use, and to explore whether compulsive cell phone use is associated with a history of motor vehicle crash. Methods We recruited a sample of 383 undergraduate college students to complete an online assessment that included cell phone use and driving history. We explored the dimensionality of the Cell Phone Overuse Scale (CPOS) using factor analytic methods. Ordinary least-squares regression models were used to examine associations between identified subscales and measures of impulsivity, alcohol use, and anxious relationship style, to establish convergent validity. We used negative binomial regression models to investigate associations between the CPOS and motor vehicle crash incidence. Results We found the CPOS to be composed of four subscales: anticipation, activity interfering, emotional reaction, and problem recognition. Each displayed significant associations with aspects of impulsivity, problematic alcohol use, and anxious relationship style characteristics. Only the anticipation subscale demonstrated statistically significant associations with reported motor vehicle crash incidence, controlling for clinical and demographic characteristics (relative ratio, 1.13; confidence interval, 1.01-1.26). For each 1-point increase on the 6-point anticipation subscale, risk for previous motor vehicle crash increased by 13%. Conclusions Crash risk is strongly associated with heightened anticipation about incoming phone calls or messages. The mean score on the CPOS is associated with increased risk of motor vehicle crash but does not reach statistical significance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)512-519
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • Adolescent behavior
  • Motor vehicle crashes
  • Technology
  • Traffic/prevention and control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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