July 2013, Volume 63, Issue 7

Letter to the Editor

Knowledge and practices regarding cell phone use while driving — perspective from Islamabad and Rawalpindi, Pakistan

Masood Ali Shaikh  ( Block No. 7, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Karachi, Pakistan. )
Anila Kamal  ( National Institute of Psychology, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan. )

Madam, there are no studies on cell phone use while driving in Pakistan. In 2008, the mobile phone penetration rate was 57% in the country.1 Cell phone use, whether hands-free or handheld,  impairs driving performance.2,3 Using cell phone while driving increases the probability of roadside accidents as much as four times, with resultant injuries and even death.4,5 This study was conducted in Islamabad and Rawalpindi to study the knowledge and practices regarding cell phone use while driving among non-commercial drivers.
A cross-sectional survey with convenience sampling was conducted among 20-29-year-old men and women in Islamabad and Rawalpindi at various universities and shopping malls from January-April 2011. The objective was to study their knowledge, and practices pertaining to cell phone use while driving. An interviewer-administered, pre-tested, structured questionnaire with close-ended questions was used for this purpose. Individuals who owned a personal cell phone and drove a car at least once a week were interviewed by two trained graduate students, after obtaining verbal consent and ensuring confidentiality. Results were analysed using the Stata data analysis and statistical software; chi-square test was applied to assess the relationships between various binary variables on knowledge, attitudes, and cell phone use while driving in the past 30 days.
Cumulatively, 312 individuals were interviewed, of whom 180 (57.7%) were male and 132 (42.3%) were female respondents.

Table provides the frequency and statistical significance of opinions/practices on cell phone use. 195 (62.5%) respondents had used a cell phone in the past 30 days while driving, despite 135 (69.2%) and 141 (72.3%) of them knowing that it is unsafe to do so during the daytime or night-time, respectively. Those who had used cell phone in the past 30 days compared to ones who did not were more likely to reply affirmatively to the use of cell phone with children present in the car, an iPod/MP3 player plugged in their ears, or restricting the use to social calls only. 109 (34.9%) respondents were involved in the roadside traffic accidents in the past one year, with those who had used cell phone in the past 30 days while driving being more likely to be involved in a statistically significant manner.
This study underscores the need for undertaking nationally representative epidemiologic studies to better understand use of cell phone and its correlates while driving, so as to empirically determine the need for planning effective and targeted health education programs for improving road safety in Pakistan.

References

1. Williams JL. Updated: how many mobile phone users are there in Pakistan? The Popular Engagement Policy Lab. May 9, 2011. (Online) (Cited 2012 May 29). Available from URL: http://pepl.org.uk/2011/05/09/updated-how-many-mobile-phone-users-are-there-in-pakistan/.
2. Consiglio W, Driscoll P, Witte M, Berg WP. Effect of cellular telephone conversations and other potential interference on reaction time in a braking response. Accid Anal Prev 2003; 35: 495-500.
3. Alm H, Nilsson L. The effects of a mobile telephone task on driver behaviour in a car following situation. Accid Anal Prev 1995; 27: 707-15.
4. Mohammadi G. Prevalence of seat belt and mobile phone use and road accident injuries amongst college students in Kerman, Iran. Chin J Traumatol 2011; 14: 165-9.
5. McEvoy SP, Stevenson MR, McCartt AT, Woodward M, Haworth C, Palamara P, et al. Role of mobile phones in motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance: a case-crossover study. BMJ 2005; 331: 428.

Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association has agreed to receive and publish manuscripts in accordance with the principles of the following committees: