Traits That Lead to Phone Use While Driving

A new study has identified certain personality traits that can lead to distracted driving and other risky behavior behind the wheel.

The study by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that extroverted older adults and conscientious, curious teens may be more likely than others to take risks while driving.

In particular, the researchers focused on such use of mobile phones as talking, texting, or otherwise interacting with the device (like checking Facebook, surfing the internet, using an app, or searching for music).

Before studying the issue, the researchers used one of the most accepted models of personality that puts people into a continuum of each of these common personality traits. Those who are:

  • Open to new experiences
  • Conscientious
  • Extroverted
  • Agreeable
  • Neurotic

Teenagers were by far the worst performers in the study when it came to their inability to not touch their phones while behind the wheel.

The study found that:

  • Teens who were more open to new experiences were the worst performers. They were more likely to engage in texting and interacting with their mobile phone than their peers. This jibes with earlier research that found that thrill-seekers and impulsive individuals with traits associated with openness are cited more often for driving violations than the average driver.
  • Conscientious drivers were the second-worst performers. Researchers were surprised to find that a 10% increase in conscientiousness correlated with a 21% increase in risk for distracted driving behaviors.
  • Less-agreeable teens were the third-worst performers. The less agreeable a teen was, the more likely they were to use their phone while driving.
  • Cooperative, agreeable teens were the best performers. They were less likely to engage in distracted driving behaviors because they were more safety-minded and had respect for the law.

Older drivers
Older drivers were much less likely to use their phones while driving.

Researchers found only one personality factor that made older adults more likely to engage in talking or interacting with their mobile phones: those who were extroverted. A 10% increase in extroversion was associated with a 20% increase in instances of distracted driving from phone use.

Researchers saw no link between personality traits and texting among adults with the four other personality types.