The contribution of passengers versus mobile phone use to motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance by the driver

Suzanne P. McEvoy, Mark R. Stevenson, Mark Woodward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


There is evidence that mobile phone use while driving (including hands-free) is associated with motor vehicle crashes. However, whether the effects of mobile phone use differ from that of passengers in the vehicle remains unclear. The aim of this research was to estimate the risk of crash associated with passenger carriage and compare that with mobile phone use. A case-control study ('passenger study') was performed in Perth, Western Australia in 2003 and 2004. Cases were 274 drivers who attended hospital following a motor vehicle crash and controls were 1096 drivers (1:4 matching) recruited at service stations matched to the location and time and day of week of the crash. The results were compared with those of a case-crossover study ('mobile phone study') undertaken concurrently (n = 456); 152 cases were common to both studies. Passenger carriage increased the likelihood of a crash (adjusted odds ratio (adj. OR), 95% confidence interval (95% CI), 1.6, 1.1-2.2). Drivers carrying two or more passengers were twice as likely to crash as unaccompanied drivers (adj. OR 2.2, 95% CI 1.3-3.8). By comparison, driver's use of a mobile phone within 5 min before a crash was associated with a fourfold increased likelihood of crashing (OR 4.1, 95% CI 2.2-7.7). Passenger carriage and increasing numbers of passengers are associated with an increased likelihood of crash, though not to the same extent as mobile phone use. Further research is needed to investigate the factors underlying the increased risks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1170-1176
Number of pages7
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Driver distraction
  • Human factor
  • Mobile (cell) phone
  • Motor vehicle
  • Passenger
  • Traffic crash

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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