Perceptions of driver distraction among teenage drivers

Elizabeth Jane Westlake, Linda Ng Boyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Teenage drivers have been shown to have some of the highest crash risks. Crash data provide some insights on factors related to crash likelihood, but rarely capture all issues that can arise from driver distraction. The goal of this study was to assess teenage drivers' opinions and perceptions of driver distraction. A survey of 1893 Iowa teenagers was conducted to determine and compare the frequency of engagement in distracting activities while driving to their opinions of what they actually consider to be distractions. A cluster analysis was conducted based on their indicated engagement in distracting activities with three groups emerging and classified as INFREQUENT, MODERATE, and FREQUENT engagers. Across all cluster groups, the majority (over 80%) indicated that they considered text messaging to be a distracting task. However, those clustered as FREQUENT engagers still reported a high level of texting while driving even though they considered this task to be distracting. A binary logistic regression model (adjusted for miles driven and license type) showed that FREQUENT and MODERATE engagers were more likely to be involved in a crash when compared to INFREQUENT engagers. The study demonstrates that not all teenagers place themselves at risk. There are subgroups of teenage drivers that often engage in activities they know are distracting, potentially putting themselves in danger. However, this is not the case for all teenage drivers and it is important to target interventions appropriately as well as foster a culture of safety both in schools and at home.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)644-653
Number of pages10
JournalTransportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Cluster analysis
  • Driver distraction
  • Survey
  • Teenage drivers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Transportation
  • Applied Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Perceptions of driver distraction among teenage drivers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this