Evaluating distracted driving behaviors in parents of children in suburban and rural areas of Alabama

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Distracting driving is considered a dangerous epidemic in teenage drivers and adult drivers nationwide. Cell phone use, such as talking and texting is one of the most common driving distractions among adult and teenage drivers. Using the model of a previously published study from New Haven, Connecticut, we sought to investigate the driving behaviors of parents while transporting their children in Alabama.


A comparison study was conducted of 150 participants from suburban (n = 86) and rural (n = 64) clinics in Alabama. Participants were recruited to complete a survey regarding their cell phone usage while driving with children. The inclusion criteria were having children younger than 18 years, a valid driver’s license, and cell phone and English speaking. The survey consisted of 10 questions focusing on parental driving behaviors. Following the survey, an educational intervention was provided. A Z test proportions was used to compare the responses.


Ninety percent of the suburban parents reported cell phone use while driving their children as compared with 86% of the rural parents. A significant difference was found between suburban parents and rural parents for cell phone use in speaker mode (Z = 3.35; p < 0.001; 95% confidence interval, 13–45), reading and sending texts while driving (Z = 4.1; p < 0.001; 95% CI, 19–51), and surfing the Internet (Z = 4.9; p < 0.001; 95% CI, 25–57). There was no statistical significance noted for the following: use of Bluetooth device, talking on the cell phone when parked/at red light, and texting while parked/at red light.


Cell phone use among parents while transporting children is common in the state of Alabama. Parents living in suburban areas use cell phones in the speaker mode, read and send text messages, and surf the Web more often when compared with parents in rural areas. Further research on how to best implement injury prevention interventions should be done to target high-risk areas with distracted driving behaviors.


Epidemiologic study, level III.

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