Do significant others influence college-aged students texting and driving behaviors? Examination of the mediational influence of proximal and distal social influence on distracted driving

Texting while driving is prevalent among college-aged students, despite distracted driving laws. Social Norms Theory suggests that individuals are influenced by perceptions of how their social groups act. Proximal sources of social influence, such as significant others (S.O.) may be more likely to effect college-aged students than distal sources (e.g. people they know in their friend or peer group, but don’t identify as people with whom they have a particularly important or meaningful relationship). The authors investigated whether perceived S.O. texting behaviors mediated the relationship between perceived risk of texting while driving and reported texting while driving among college-aged students. A sample of 835 undergraduate licensed drivers were surveyed about the influence of perceived risk of texting while driving on texting while driving within the past month. The authors examined whether seeing one’s S.O. (versus their friends) texting while driving mediated this effect. Two groups of drivers were considered: low-risk drivers, who never received a traffic citation nor got into a crash, and high-risk drivers, who had ever received traffic citation and been involved in a crash. The authors also examined gender differences within low-risk and high-risk groups. A series of logistic regressions, adjusting for gender and ethnicity, were conducted along with Sobel Tests to evaluate the significance of the mediation effect. Results showed that perceptions of the S.O. partially mediated the relationship between perceived risk of texting while driving and texting while driving. This effect was also observed for low risk (female only) and high risk drivers. There was no mediation effect for distal sources. These findings bolster the limited research on the importance of proximal sources of social influence and suggest prevention efforts should focus on proximal social networks of college-aged students as opposed to distal social influences when targeting young adults distracted driving.


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  • Accession Number: 01675410
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jun 15 2018 4:21PM