Personality Profiles of Drivers Easily Distracted by Phones While Driving: Study
Sat, April 17, 2021

Personality Profiles of Drivers Easily Distracted by Phones While Driving: Study


A recent study assessed the personality profiles of drivers who could get distracted by their phones. Three personality profiles were highlighted with a greater connection to phone use while driving.

The personality profiles linked to phone use while driving were unveiled by researchers at the University of Bamberg. They found that these profiles had a statistical distinction in the risk of road accidents. Their chances of following or forgetting drive safety protocols would be dependent on education, training, and simulation. Thus, all prone personality profiles could become better in following rules if trained properly. They published their findings in the International Journal of Information Management.

Road Accidents in the US and Europe

Road accidents are common in different cities worldwide. Some are caused by mechanical failure, but others are due to the disobedience of traffic rules. Irresponsible driving can damage property and cost lives. If drivers and passengers survived, they may have serious injuries and at risk of lifelong disability. These outcomes are the reasons why certain agencies always remind people to follow traffic rules to avoid unwanted complications in life. Sadly, many ignore the dangers on the road.

In Europe, several countries reported numerous deaths associated with road accidents. Among the top 10 countries with the highest number of road deaths in 2018, Romania was listed at the top spot at 96 deaths per million population. It was followed by Bulgaria at 87, Latvia at 78, Croatia at 77, Poland at 76, Portugal at 66, Greece at 65, Hungary at 65, Lithuania at 62, and the Czech Republic at 62 per million population.

In the US, an estimated 2.71 million injuries and 36,560 deaths were linked to road accidents in 2018. Those were slightly lower than the 2.745 million injuries and 37,473 deaths in 2017. Within the period from 1990 to 2018, the highest number of injuries and deaths was recorded in 1996 at 3.483 million and 42,065, respectively.

There are several factors why road accidents happen. Two of these factors are the behavior and action of a person. The behavior and action depend on their overall physical and mental wellbeing. People who are not in a good state may be prone to road accidents. For example, they may not be completely aware of their surroundings and suddenly changed their lane. This can be a critical factor on road traversed by high-speeding vehicles.



Personality and Road Accidents

Using phones while driving is highly discouraged by government agencies, organizations, and many people. This is because using mobile devices can decrease the attention required when driving. A split-second can be a matter of life and death. But why people keep using their phones while driving? One answer may be the personality of the person behind the wheel.

At the University of Bamberg, researchers conducted a survey to find evidence linking personality to phone use while driving. Their survey revealed that personality traits do matter in the tendency of a person to use their phone while driving. Three personality profiles were found with the highest association. But the same personality profiles were only indicators. If people with those profiles were trained properly, they could avoid using their phones while driving, which would lower their risk of road accidents.

Dr. Grant Hilary Brenner, a psychiatrist and was not a part of the study, wrote on US magazine Psychology Today: "Drivers use smartphones 'intuitively, impulsively, and automatically.' It's reflexive, given our smartphone and internet dependencies. When the traffic is slow or stopped, if we're bored, if we can't stop thinking about work, stealing a moment on the phone provides relief, and we don't give much thought to the consequences."

The survey was completed by 273 participants from the ADAC, the largest motoring association in Europe. Researchers instructed participants to complete the measures of the Big Five personality traits: openness,  conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Participants were also asked to complete other measures for demographic variables, such as age and education, and frequency of smartphone use, which included purposes like calling and texting. Researchers identified three personality profiles that were distinct and statistically-independent in phone use while driving. People with these profiles were likely to use their mobile devices while driving for various reasons.



The first profile was non-neurotic drivers who exhibited high scores in agreeableness and openness. The two traits referred to the tendency to be open and agree to new experiences. The profile was low in conscientiousness and neuroticism. The tendency of the first profile was centered around interest in novelty and to please others, a reason why a person would reply immediately. As such, the profile had a lower focus on risk and diligence while driving. They would feel safer on checking their smartphone than looking attentively on the road. But better education from driving schools and simulations of the negative impact of smartphone use while driving could help this profile pay more attention to the road.

The second profile was extraverted-open drivers who had high scores on agreeableness, extraversion, and openness. The profile scored low on conscientiousness while neutral on neuroticism. The profile was described as being social, desire to please others, search for new experiences, and less diligence. This profile had a higher tendency to use smartphones while driving, with a potential of zero assessment of the danger. People in this profile could be distracted easily by smartphones and better education would do little. To lower the risk of accidents, self-organization tools could be used to keep them busy and handsfree technology to reduce distraction.

The third profile was conscientious drivers who had high scores in conscientiousness and neuroticism, above-average scores in agreeableness and extraversion, and low scores in openness. The profile empowers the immediate need to finish tasks. While driving, the tasks would be finishing a reply to a message, whether a text or from a social media platform. The need would likely be enhanced by neurotic concerns, which could divert their attention from the road to the phone. But empowered awareness in road risks would help drivers avoid phone use while driving.


The study showed that personality profiles can be an effective way to determine the best approach in educating drivers. Some personalities may be receptive to standard approaches, but others may not be. This is important because a single personality trait is enough to cause trouble on the road.