We’re more distracted than ever when we drive – reports

True exchange at a stoplight in a major U.S. city.

“You know you really should stop looking at your phone in the car,” said a teenager to his mother. Then, after she protested, he said, “I’ll hold your phone.”

You know distracted driving has reached alarming levels when kids are doing the parenting – and seem more knowledgeable about the problem than the adults in their lives.

While automotive safety features have come a long way toward mitigating some of the risk of accidents, responsibility for safe driving still resides with, well, the driver. That is underscored by a recent large-scale study conducted by Zendrive, an automotive analytics company.

“Distracted driving is far worse than we thought,” said Zendrive in a blog post describing the results of the firm’s 2018 Distracted Driving Snapshot, released in time for Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

“How bad? One hundred times worse than the most reliable data available.”

The snapshot reveals that “69 million drivers use their phones behind the wheel every day, far higher than the 660,000 daily distracted drivers reported by government data” reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, according to Zendrive.

Here are several key findings from the Zendrive study, which involved monitoring 4.5 million drivers who traveled 7.1 billion miles from last December to February:

  • On an average day, more than 60 percent of people use their phones at least once while behind the wheel of their vehicle. Based on U.S. Census data, “this means that at least 69 million drivers use their phones each day while driving.”
  • At any given hour of the day, an average of 40 percent of drivers use their phone at least once. That figure climbs to 72 percent of drivers between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., when traffic is heaviest.
  • The worst hour of the day is 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., when 74 percent of drivers use their phones at least once – just as evening rush hour traffic is building in most U.S. cities.
  • Overall, drivers use their phones an average of 1:52 of every hour behind the wheel. “At 55 mph, this is like driving 1.2 miles blindfolded, the length of two football fields.” But among drivers who actually use their phones at least once, the average doubles to 3:40.
  • Distracted driving increased in every state except Vermont from 2017 to 2018, and in every city included in the study.

“It’s not your imagination,” reports The Detroit Bureau, an online automotive news provider. “In spite of concerted efforts by federal agencies and safety advocacy groups, Americans are spending more time than ever using their phones while behind the wheel.”

Zendrive isn’t the only organization sounding alarm bells as AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, location-sharing app Life360 and Cambridge Mobile Telematics have weighed in with recent studies:

  • Nearly half of drivers (49 percent) recently reported talking on a hand-held phone while driving and nearly 35 percent have sent a text or email, even though large majorities think the behaviors are dangerous, said the AAA Foundation’s Traffic Safety Culture Index. The group also found that drivers talking on a cellphone are up to four times more likely to be involved in an accident, while those who text are up to eight times as likely to crash.
  • Parents aren’t much better than teens about using cellphones while driving, according to Life360’s Heads Up, Phones Down: Distracted Driving Intervention That report also revealed that teens are only 6 percent more likely to use their phones while driving.
  • Drivers are distracted during 36 percent of all trips based on an analysis of more than 65 million trips by drivers in seven cities conducted by Cambridge Mobile Telematics, a company which markets a system that captures and analyzes driving behavior for auto insurers, vehicle fleet owners, automakers, wireless carriers and government agencies.

“We did a similar analysis last year and … observed that the percentage of trips with distraction across the nation was 31 percent,” said Katherine Wellman of Cambridge Mobile. “It’s certainly increasing rather than decreasing – and that’s disconcerting.”

“As the number of distractions behind the wheel increases – from the latest phone apps to in-vehicle technology – it is important that we better educate drivers on the dangers of distraction,” said Jake Nelson, AAA director of traffic safety advocacy and research.

“There is a disconnect between what drivers do and what they believe. While most recognize the dangers created by taking your eyes off the road, they engage in distracting behaviors anyway.”

You can read the complete Zendrive report, 2018 Distracted Driving Snapshot | What we learned from driving 100 billion miles, on the company’s website.

The 100 billion miles is a reference to the total amount of data that has been collected by Zendrive.

They would be safer miles if we all put down our cellphones.

More Like This

Couple in self-driving car
April 24, 2019

Most Americans still afraid of self-driving vehicles, AAA survey finds

Drivers haven’t forgotten, but they may be willing to forgive. A year after a flurry of high-profile incidents involving self-driving, or autonomous, cars, 71 percent of Americans still are afraid to ride in fully self-driving vehicles, according to a survey…

How anti-lock brakes work and why they could save your life
November 7, 2016

How anti-lock brakes work and why they could save your life

Vehicle technology is changing so fast it can be a challenge for drivers to keep up. Designed to make driving safer and easier, new technology has tested drivers’ adaptability. “The level of confusion about features that have been standard in…