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Largest Distracted Driving Behavior Study

Drivers Use Their Phones During 88 Out of 100 Trips 3-Month Analysis of 5.6-Billion Miles, 570-Million Trips, 3-Million Drivers

Noah BudnickNoah Budnick

Zendrive’s 3-month analysis of 3-million anonymous drivers, who made 570-million trips and covered 5.6-billion miles found:

Here’s another scary thing: Traffic deaths have shot off the charts in the last two years. As phones have become commonplace, how have they affected our everyday behaviors? Most importantly, do they impact how safely we perform seemingly mundane tasks, like driving a car?

This winter, Zendrive’s team of data scientists and policy experts dug into our 10-billion mile data set to see what we can learn about phone use behind the wheel.

We started with some commonsense assumptions:

What we didn’t know is how frequently drivers are using their phones when they are behind the wheel, at least until now.

New research from Zendrive has found that Americans use their phones nearly every single time they get behind the wheel.

What We Learned

Zendrive conducted the Distracted Driving Behavior Study to look at the frequency and duration of phone use behind the wheel. This study aggregated and analyzed data from 3.1-million anonymized drivers, who took 570-million trips, covering 5.6-billion miles nationwide between December 2016 and February 2017.

This is the largest distracted driving study conducted to-date. There are many small scale distracted driving reports, but their conclusions vary and their statistical robustness is questionable. This topic is too important to leave ambiguous.

Our top finding shows that drivers used their phones during 88-percent of the 570-million trips analyzed.

Everyday, that’s the equivalent of people behind the wheel talking or texting on 5.6-million car rides from our sample alone. When extrapolated for the entire U.S. driving population, the number goes up to roughly 600-million distracted trips a day.

Zendrive researchers also found that during an hour-long trip, drivers spent an average of 3.5-minutes using their phones. This finding is frightening, especially when you consider that a 2-second distraction is long enough to increase your likelihood of crashing by over 20-times. In other words, that’s equivalent to 105 opportunities an hour that you could  nearly kill yourself and/or others.

What We Can Do

Traffic deaths are preventable. We know what behaviors contribute to traffic deaths, so we can develop strategies to reduce, and eventually eliminate, them. To this effort, Zendrive brings new data and new insights into problems we haven’t been able to measure before, like phone use behind the wheel.

Zendrive is working with communities, local decision-makers, safety experts and driving coaches to use our data to save lives. Zendrive’s powerful system transforms mobile technology from a threat to a lifesaver.

Our massive data set ensures robust coverage and the best accuracy for identifying risky driving behaviors. We measure what’s happening on our roads because, as the saying goes: If you can measure it, you can manage it.

Download the full report here (.pdf)
Download the executive summary here (.pdf)

State Rankings

Who are the most and least distracted drivers, and how did Zendrive figure this out?

Zendrive dug deep into our data set of 10-billion miles of driver behavior data and pulled out a three month sample of 570-million trips, where 3.1-million people  drove 5.6-billion miles around the U.S. between December 2016 and February 2017.

States that prohibit the use of hand-held cellphones while driving: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia — plus the District of Columbia.

Our data science team looked at the relationship between how long people drove each day and how much time they spent using their phones while driving. They calculated the ratio between the average daily trip time and the average amount of time drivers used their phones each day. By comparing duration to duration, i.e. apples to apples, Zendrive came up with the most direct and accurate measurement of driver distraction.

 

Ranking State Hand-held phone ban
Most distracted Vermont Yes
50 Mississippi
49 Louisiana
48 Alabama
47 Arkansas
46 Oklahoma
45 New Jersey Yes
44 Rhode Island
43 Missouri
42 Massachusetts
41 Tennessee
40 Kansas
39 District of Columbia Yes
38 South Carolina
37 Connecticut Yes
36 Kentucky
35 Texas
34 Georgia
33 Pennsylvania
32 Iowa
31 North Carolina
30 Nebraska
29 Ohio
28 West Virginia Yes
27 Indiana
26 Illinois Yes
25 Michigan
24 Virginia
23 New York Yes
22 Maine
21 North Dakota
20 Florida
19 Maryland Yes
18 Wisconsin
17 Minnesota
16 New Hampshire Yes
15 Colorado
14 South Dakota
13 Delaware Yes
12 Arizona
11 Alaska
10 New Mexico Yes
9 Wyoming
8 Utah
7 California Yes
6 Nevada Yes
5 Montana
4 Hawaii Yes
3 Idaho
2 Washington Yes
Least distracted Oregon Yes

It appears that at the state-level, laws that ban hand-held phone use actually reduce the amount of time per trip drivers use their phones. Of the ten states with the lowest levels of phone use, six have laws limiting phone use while driving. However, the state with the highest level of phone use, Vermont, also has a law that limits phone use while driving.

Local Rankings

At the local level, it is unclear if these laws impact phone use. Looking at January and February 2017 trip data from a sample of cities in the best and the worst states, Zendrive data scientists found mixed results. Drivers in Los Angeles, for example, spent the most time using their phones during each trip, yet California has a law prohibiting phone use and, as a state, ranks among the least distracted.

City City/State has hand-held phone ban
Most distracted Los Angeles Yes
Austin
Miami
Philadelphia
Chicago Yes
Houston
Denver
New York Yes
Burlington Yes
Portland Yes
San Francisco Yes
Atlanta
Boston
Washington,DC Yes
Least distracted Seattle Yes

About

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Noah Budnick is the Director of Public Policy & Government Affairs for Zendrive. He introduced the “Vision Zero” concept to the U.S., which posits that all traffic deaths and serious injuries are preventable. As part of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s transition team, he helped develop the first Vision Zero policy in America. Noah has championed policies to improve communities through the introduction of safe city speed limits, protected bike lanes and “play streets." He also conducted the first U.S. research to demonstrate the “safety in numbers” effect – that increased numbers of walkers and bikers lead to fewer casualties. Before Zendrive, Noah served as Executive Director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and Deputy Director of Transportation Alternatives in NYC. His roots in active transportation go back to high school, where he convinced his physical education teachers to let him start a mountain biking club in lieu of going to gym class.

Noah Budnick is the Director of Public Policy & Government Affairs for Zendrive. He introduced the “Vision Zero” concept to the U.S., which posits that all traffic deaths and serious injuries are preventable. As part of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s transition team, he helped develop the first Vision Zero policy in America. Noah has championed policies to improve communities through the introduction of safe city speed limits, protected bike lanes and “play streets." He also conducted the first U.S. research to demonstrate the “safety in numbers” effect – that increased numbers of walkers and bikers lead to fewer casualties. Before Zendrive, Noah served as Executive Director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and Deputy Director of Transportation Alternatives in NYC. His roots in active transportation go back to high school, where he convinced his physical education teachers to let him start a mountain biking club in lieu of going to gym class.