Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

PloS One


Geisel School of Medicine


Objective: We examine the association between exposure to depictions of reckless driving in movies and unsafe driving, modeling inattentive and reckless driving as separate outcomes. Methods: Data were obtained by telephone from 1,630 US adolescents aged 10 to 14 years at baseline who were drivers at a survey 6 years later. Exposure to movie reckless driving was measured based on movies seen from a randomly selected list of 50 movie titles that had been content coded for reckless driving among characters. Associations were tested with inattentive and reckless driving behaviors in the subsequent survey–controlling for baseline age, sex, socioeconomic status, parental education, school performance, extracurricular activities, daily television and video/computer game exposure, number of movies watched per week, self- regulation and sensation seeking. Results: Exposure to movie reckless driving was common, with approximately 10% of movie characters having driven recklessly. Confirmatory factor analysis revealed a significant distinction between items tapping reckless and inattentive driving at the 6 th wave. Age and exposure to movie reckless driving at baseline were directly associated with wave-6 reckless (but not inattentive) driving. Additionally, growth in sensation seeking mediated a prospective relation between the total number of movies watched per week at baseline and reckless driving, independent of exposure to movie reckless driving. Males and high sensation seekers reported lower seatbelt usage and more reckless driving, whereas lower self-regulation predicted inattentive driving. Discussion: In this study, exposure to movie reckless driving during early adolescence predicted adolescents’ reckless driving, suggesting a direct modeling effect. Other aspects of movies were also associated with reckless driving, with that association mediated through growth in sensation seeking. Predictors of reckless driving were different from predictors of inattentive driving, with lower self-regulation associated with the latter outcome. Making a clear distinction between interventions for reckless or inattentive driving seems crucial for accident prevention.