Students with cell phones may take more risks, study finds

Mar 03, 2008

Carrying a cell phone may cause some college students – especially women – to take risks with their safety, a new study suggests.

A survey of 305 students at one campus found that 40 percent of cell phone users said they walked somewhere after dark that they normally wouldn’t go.

A separate survey found that about three-quarters of students said that carrying a cell phone while walking alone at night made them feel somewhat or a lot safer.

“Students seem to feel less vulnerable when they carry a cell phone, although there’s not evidence that they really are,” said Jack Nasar, co-author of the study and professor of city and regional planning at Ohio State University.

“If anything, they are probably less safe because they are paying less attention to their surroundings.”

Nasar conducted the study with Peter Hecht of Temple University in Philadelphia and Richard Wener of Brooklyn Polytechnic University in New York. Their results were published in a recent issue of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.

The study involved online or phone interviews with randomly selected students at Ohio State. One sample in 2001 included 317 students and a separate survey one year later included 305 students.

Women reported feeling a greater increase in safety carrying a cell phone than did male students, probably because they felt more vulnerable in the first place, Nasar said.

As a result, more women than men said that, if they had a cell phone they would be willing to walk somewhere after dark that they would normally not go (42 percent of women vs. 28 percent of men).

“Especially for women, cell phones offer a sense of security that may make them more willing to put themselves in risky situations,” Nasar said.

The biggest issue may be that when people are talking on the cell phone, they are not focusing on what is going on around them, according to Nasar. The possibility of crime is not the only problem.

In a separate study, Nasar and his colleagues found that 48 per cent of cell phone users crossed a busy road in front of approaching cars, compared to only 25 per cent of those not using phones.

“We know that cell phones pose a hazard for people when they’re driving, but pedestrians may also be at risk if they are not careful,” he said.

While these students were surveyed in 2001 and 2002, Nasar said the results still apply today, and maybe even more so. Back at that time, fewer college students had cell phones. In the 2001 sample, 38 percent reported they did not have a cell phone. One year later, that was down to 14 percent.

The researchers conducted an independent survey of 100 students at Brooklyn Polytechnic and found similar results, Nasar said, indicating that the findings could apply to a wide variety of students from across the country.

Nasar said the results suggest colleges may want to add to the safety lectures they commonly give to incoming freshmen.

“Students need to be aware of their surroundings when they’re out using their cell phone,” he said. “In some cases, walking with a cell phone might make them vulnerable, either to crime or to an accident.”

Cell phone users should also consider adding emergency numbers to the “speed dial” functions of their phone so it will be easier to summon help if needed.

Source: Ohio State University

Explore further: Bribery 'hits 1.6 billion people a year'

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New battery startup promises safe lithium batteries

Feb 10, 2015

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) battery scientist Nitash Balsara has worked for many years trying to find a way to improve the safety of lithium-ion batteries. Now he believes he has ...

The Facebook of plant science

Jan 21, 2015

By building PhotosynQ - a handheld device with sensors and an online data-sharing and analysis platform - a team of Michigan State University researchers is creating the plant-science equivalent of Facebook.

Students engineering phone charger for world's needy

Jan 07, 2015

A pair of Case Western Reserve University engineering students are field testing their foot-powered cell phone charger in rural villages of the Kingdom of Lesotho, a small country surrounded entirely by South Africa, this ...

Recommended for you

Bribery 'hits 1.6 billion people a year'

Feb 27, 2015

A total of 1.6 billion people worldwide – nearly a quarter of the global population – are forced to pay bribes to gain access to everyday public services, according to a new book by academics at the Universities of Birmingham ...

How music listening programmes can be easily fooled

Feb 26, 2015

For well over two decades, researchers have sought to build music listening software that can address the deluge of music growing faster than our Spotify-spoilt appetites. From software that can tell you ...

Nature journal to begin offering double-blind peer review

Feb 23, 2015

Well known and respected journal, Nature, will begin next month offering researchers who submit their work for peer review, the option of having it done via the double-blind method—whereby both submitters and re ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.