Possession attachment predicts cell phone use while driving

Joshua A. Weller, Crystal Shackleford, Nathan Dieckmann, Paul Slovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Objective: Distracted driving has become an important public health concern. However, little is known about the predictors of this health-risking behavior. One overlooked risk factor for distracted driving is the perceived attachment that one feels toward his or her phone. Prior research has suggested that individuals develop bonds toward objects, and qualitative research suggests that the bond between young drivers and their phones can be strong. It follows that individuals who perceive a strong attachment to their phone would be more likely to use it, even when driving. Method: In a nationally representative sample of young drivers (17-28 years), participants (n = 1,006) completed a survey about driving behaviors and phone use. Risk perception surrounding cell phone use while driving and perceived attachment to one's phone were assessed by administering factor-analytically derived scales that were created as part of a larger project. Results: Attachment toward one's phone predicted the proportion of trips in which a participant reported using their cell phone while driving, beyond that accounted for by risk perception and overall phone use. Further, attachment predicted self-reported distracted driving behaviors, such as the use of social media while driving. Conclusions: Attachment to one's phone may be an important but overlooked risk factor for the engagement of potentially health-risking driving behaviors. Understanding that phone attachment may adversely affect driving behaviors has the potential to inform prevention and intervention efforts designed to reduce distracted driving behaviors, especially in young drivers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-387
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell phone use while driving
  • Cell possession attachment
  • Distracted driving
  • Individual differences
  • Risk perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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