Are cellular phone blocking applications effective for novice teen drivers?

Janet I. Creaser, Christopher J. Edwards, Nichole L. Morris, Max Donath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Problem Distracted driving is a significant concern for novice teen drivers. Although cellular phone bans are applied in many jurisdictions to restrict cellular phone use, teen drivers often report making calls and texts while driving. Method The Minnesota Teen Driver Study incorporated cellular phone blocking functions via a software application for 182 novice teen drivers in two treatment conditions. The first condition included 92 teens who ran a driver support application on a smartphone that also blocked phone usage. The second condition included 90 teens who ran the same application with phone blocking but which also reported back to parents about monitored risky behaviors (e.g., speeding). A third control group consisting of 92 novice teen drivers had the application and phone-based software installed on the phones to record cellular phone (but not block it) use while driving. Results The two treatment groups made significantly fewer calls and texts per mile driven compared to the control group. The control group data also demonstrated a higher propensity to text while driving rather than making calls. Discussion Software that blocks cellular phone use (except 911) while driving can be effective at mitigating calling and texting for novice teen drivers. However, subjective data indicates that some teens were motivated to find ways around the software, as well as to use another teen's phone while driving when they were unable to use theirs. Practical applications Cellular phone bans for calling and texting are the first step to changing behaviors associated with texting and driving, particularly among novice teen drivers. Blocking software has the additional potential to reduce impulsive calling and texting while driving among novice teen drivers who might logically know the risks, but for whom it is difficult to ignore calling or texting while driving.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75.e29-78
JournalJournal of Safety Research
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) through Sponsor Award Number 99008 , Work Order 17. The Statistical Consulting Service at the University of Minnesota conducted the statistical data analyses. In particular, we'd like to thank Lindsey Dietz and Yifan Gu for their statistical expertise and skills. Allan Williams, of Allan Williams LLC, served as an independent reviewer of the project's methods and measures as part of a conflict of interest management plan to ensure quality and integrity in the methods, data collection, analyses and conclusions. Finally, we extend thanks to our Assistant Scientist, Alice Ton, and our team of Research Assistants, Oxana Kramarevsky, Luke Rabelhofer, Meghan Bennett and Beth Miranda for their significant efforts in ensuring the success of this project.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 National Safety Council and Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2018 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Cellular phones
  • Distracted driving
  • Novice drivers
  • Technology
  • Teenagers


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