The prevalence of seatbelt and mobile phone use among drivers in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: An observational study

J Safety Res. 2018 Sep:66:33-37. doi: 10.1016/j.jsr.2018.05.001. Epub 2018 May 19.


Introduction: Road traffic injuries (RTIs) are the third leading cause of death in Saudi Arabia. Numerous factors may increase the likelihood of RTIs. The prevalence of risk factors associated with RTIs may vary due to several reasons. Because little is known about these risk factors locally, we examined the prevalence of mobile phone and seatbelt use and their association with spatial locations.

Methods: This is an observational study conducted at major highways and inner intersections throughout Riyadh, the country's capital. Two observers captured seatbelt and mobile phone use among drivers. Logistic regression models were constructed to examine the association between real estate prices and mobile phone or seatbelt use. Observations were categorized as taken place in an affluent neighborhood if the average price per square meter was above 2500 Saudi Riyal.

Results: A total of 1700 drivers were observed in 13 sites citywide. 13.8% of drivers were seen using mobile while driving and only a third of drivers (34%) were wearing seatbelts. Being at an affluent neighborhood was associated with close to three times higher odds of wearing seatbelts (OR = 2.7, 95% CI = 1.9-3.7) and also associated with 42% lower odds of mobile phone use among drivers (OR = 0.58, 95% CI = 0.36-0.92).

Discussion: This study found a high prevalence of traffic violations among drivers in Riyadh. Based on our estimate, 660,000 drivers are roaming the street during daytime while using their phones and they are less likely to wear seatbelts. Unfortunately, this estimate might contribute to increasing RTIs. Despite existing regulations, seatbelt use among drivers is significantly lower than in developed countries (i.e. USA 94%).

Conclusion: Our study found a high prevalence of traffic violations represented by lack of compliance with seatbelt and mobile phone use laws. These findings provide a basis for their underlying prevalence in SA. Practical applications: Public health prevention programs may use these findings to facilitate support to increasing investment in awareness campaigns and further enforcement by the traffic police to reduce RITs and improve population health.

Keywords: Mobile phone; Motor vehicle crashes; Saudi Arabia; Seatbelt.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Automobile Driving / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cell Phone Use / statistics & numerical data*
  • Housing / economics*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Seat Belts / statistics & numerical data*