Applying the Health Belief Model to mobile device distracted driving

Cox, Aimee E. / Cicchino, Jessica B. / Reagan, Ian J. / Zuby, David S.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
March 2023

Introduction: The advancement of mobile devices has resulted in constant connectivity, but at the expense of traffic safety. The goal of this study was to apply the Health Belief Model to understand the barriers preventing drivers from driving without manipulating their devices, and what they perceived would motivate them to stop driving distracted.
Methods: We conducted a nationwide survey of 2,013 U.S. licensed drivers. Participants indicated how much they agreed with or supported 63 statements and concepts pertaining to the Health Belief Model constructs of threats, barriers, benefits, and cues to action related to manipulating devices while driving. Heath Belief Model constructs were compared between distracted drivers, or those who regularly did (during most or all drives in the previous 30 days) one or more mobile device tasks, and non-distracted drivers. Logistic regression evaluated the relationship between Health Belief Model constructs and distracted driver designation.
Results: Those who agreed more with threats (odds ratio [OR], 1.61; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.27, 2.04) and disagreed more with barriers to stopping (OR, 0.36; 95% CI, 0.31, 0.41) were more likely to not drive distracted. Work, information, and convenience were significantly larger barriers for distracted drivers, and information, urgent, and interpersonal tasks or communications were the top barriers for distracted drivers overall. Distracted drivers felt most strongly that intrapersonal, interpersonal, and policy cues would motivate behavior termination, and more support of technological countermeasures was associated with regularly driving distracted after controlling for support for policy and organizational countermeasures.
Conclusions: Simultaneously increasing threat perceptions, targeting the top barriers identified, and implementing policy-, interpersonal-, and technological-based countermeasures may encourage device-free driving. Practical applications: When designing interventions or programs, state highway safety offices should find new ways to increase threat perceptions and offer solutions to the barriers most cited by distracted drivers.