Prioritizing Constant Communication over Safety While Driving: Public Attitudes about Proposed Legal Restrictions on Cell Phone use by Motor Vehicle Operators
This research continues an international tradition of scholarship on the dangers of cell phone use while driving through administration of a quantitative and qualitative web survey to 249 individuals. Viewed in light of a large body of prior research and interpreted through the conceptual frameworks of Media Dependency Theory and Risk Theory, the authors found that 90% of their respondents reported regularly operating a cell phone while driving, and almost half reported strong confidence levels in their own abilities to drive while managing distractions, while they evaluated the abilities of others’ less favorably. Talking on a cell phone while driving was rated as only slightly more distracting than conversing with a passenger or operating a car stereo, while activities such as eating, grooming, and reading while driving were found to be more distracting. Attitudes about the use of and distractions presented by hands-free cellular technology are also explored. This study found that respondents overwhelmingly support the implementation of laws restricting cell phone use by motorists, however they feel these laws would be difficult to enforce, and because of this, over 70% of the respondents said that if a law was implemented they would still continue to regularly use their phones will driving to carry on personal, professional, and emergency communications.
Keywords: Risk Theory, Media Dependency Theory, Cell Phones and Driving, Public Opinion, Cell Phone Bans, Survey Research
Student, Department of Communication, Portland State University