Publication Date

August 2017


Introduction: As mobile phones become increasingly integrated into every aspect of public social life, structural contradictions between the norms of mobile use and norms within public social environments become increasingly apparent. Driving is a social environment in which these contradictions are both apparent and extremely dangerous. The purpose of this study is to examine uniquely social factors that influence the likelihood of texting while driving among new, teenage drivers, which is a generation socialized into mobile phone use from a very young age. Methods: Using data from the 2009 Parent-Teen Cell Phone Survey, collected by the Pew Research Center, multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine the impact of various social factors on the likelihood of teenagers texting while driving. Results: This study suggests sociability, types of relationships, the use of mobile phones during class, multiplexing, and careless mobile behaviors increase the likelihood of teenagers texting while driving. Furthermore, parents’ texting behaviors and parental involvement in restricting teenagers’ mobile phone were related to the decreased likelihood of texting while driving. Finally, teenagers attending schools that prohibit mobile phone use were more likely to texting while driving. Conclusions: The results suggest that multiplexing has become a central feature of teenage driving culture, motivated by an internalized sense of digital connection with others; teenagers are more likely to text while driving with certain close others; parents have a direct and indirect influence on teenagers texting while driving; and greater restrictions on mobile phone use in schools could be inadvertently contributing to texting while driving. Practical Applications: The findings of this study suggest that parents and school administrators can significantly decrease the likelihood of teenagers texting while driving by understanding this new social context rather than simply sanctioning mobile behaviors. Moreover, campaigns that resonate within teenagers’ daily life are likely to have an indirect impact of texting while driving by connecting with, and becoming visible within, their everyday experiences.