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Psychological Factors for Using a Cellphone and Driving

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Psychology
Wordcount: 1177 words Published: 18th May 2020

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Driving is something that we all learn and we all use in our daily lives. It has become second nature to most of us. Being distracted by driving can come from various things such as eating, putting makeup on, changing the radio station, and most commonly, using a cellphone.

 Each year distracted driving while using a cellphone results in the estimated 2600 deaths, 330,000 injuries, and 1.5 million in property damage (Schlehofer, et al., 2010). There are many reasons that people use phones while driving. A survey was sent out on a college campus and it was found that 86% talk on a cellphone occasionally and 21% of accidents were because of cellphone involvement (Schlehofer, et al., 2010).

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 This article discusses a study that looked at psychological factors that might explain the need to use a cellphone while driving. These factors are overestimating the ability to drive with distractions, general propensity toward the illusion of control, and a controlling cognitive style. Many people know that driving with any types of distractions are dangerous, however, a person can overestimate their ability to drive with these distractions (Schlehofer, et al., 2010). A person can think that they are a good driver, or perhaps a better driver than some other people, so they are capable of using a cellphone and driving at the same time. Many people do not think that using a phone while driving is distracting, especially when it is just used for talking (Schlehofer, et al., 2010). The overestimation of control can result in increased cellphone use because people believe that they are in control of the situation when they are driving. If a person is driving, then they can talk on a phone at the same time because they have the ability to do so. People often use time while driving to talk on cellphones because it helps save time later. This is a factor of the controlling cognitive style (Schlehofer, et al., 2010).

 This study was a two-phase study that was used to see how the predictors and the cellphone use correlated. In the first phase of the study, the participants reported how often they used their phones while driving, they answered questions about their daily lives, and the researchers measured the persons ability to compensate for distractions, the illusion of control, the cognitive style differences, and the driving records (Schlehofer, et al., 2010). The second phase of the study was to have the participants drive on a simulator with and without using a cellphone. The prediction was that everyday driving while using a phone would have higher judgments of being able to compensate for driving distractions, overestimation of the ability to drive the simulator, high illusion of control, and the controlling cognitive style (Schlehofer, et al., 2010). The final sample of participants was a diverse group of 69 students. This study lasted over two to three weeks and compensated with research credit in a class and $5 for each phase that they completed. The study was conducted by using a driving simulation with a monitor and steering wheel about the size for a standard car. It offered practice sessions and a baseline session and resulted in a driving score (Schlehofer, et al., 2010). The participants were also asked what their score would be if they were talking on a phone, having a conversation in person, or eating. The participants did not know what this was a study to gauge the distraction of using a phone while driving. They were then given a handheld phone to use and they were required to have discussions about real world issues as well as general conversation questions (Schlehofer, et al., 2010).

 Using a one-way ANOVA it was found that the driving scores were lower with a phone conversation than without one. The results are consistent with the idea that cellphone use while driving is dangerous and results in more accidents (Schlehofer, et al., 2010). The usage rates are increasing as technology evolves. The study was successful in supporting the hypothesis that the researchers had. People who use their phones while driving have a sense of control when it comes to their driving and they feel that they are better drivers even when they may not be. People overestimate the amount of distraction that comes from using a cellphone while driving. The controlling cognitive style for people was not correlated in this study. The results showed that the positive illusion effected the controlling style, but suggest that it could be more related to the desire to control a situation or have the ability to multitask. The results of this study have implications that can be used in further research or to help answer why people will continue to use a cellphone while driving even when they know it is a risky behavior (Schlehofer, et al., 2010). The next step would be to use this data to look at a person’s illusory control and judgment to see a link between driving and using a phone. If this is a confirmed link, the research will focus on ways to disrupt the idea that a person can use a phone successfully while driving. The article suggests having drivers use a simulator to show them how cellphone use can affect them. By doing so, they can show people that they do not have the best judgment when it comes to distracted driving, even though they feel that they are in total control and are better drivers than other people (Schlehofer, et al., 2010).

 Overall, this study was successful in proving the hypothesis that distracted driving by using a cellphone can result in an accident. The study was just to show how many people used a phone when driving and how they felt about it. It showed that people think that they are good enough drivers to use phones when driving but the simulator and driving scores showed otherwise.

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 My suggestion for this experiment or even a future experiment of this simulator would be to truly show people how their decisions on the road can affect people and the danger that people pose by using phones and driving. I would suggest making changes to the simulator to make it feel even more real by using multiple monitors to offer a real life experience. This was listed as a limitation in the article, but I think that by making it feel more real to the participants, it can make a better impact. If they are using a phone and distracted while in the simulator and cause an imaginary accident, no one is hurt, but they can still see the result of their actions. If they are in a real car on the real road, people can get hurt and there is no way to take that back.


  • Schlehofer, M. M., Thompson, S. C., Ting, S., Ostermann, S., Nierman, A., & Skenderian, J. (2010). Psychological predictors of college students’ cell phone use while driving. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 42(4), 1107-1112. doi:10.1016/j.aap.2009.12.024


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