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Study: Smartphone Distraction Levels Extremely High Among Motorists

by John Gomez | Last Updated: April 17, 2017
Smartphone Distraction

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month.  The San Diego car accident lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys have been working diligently to raise the awareness level with regards to this issue.  We’ve seen studies that focus on the use of cellphones before a crash.  We have discussed studies that reveal how distracted driving affects motorists’ actions.  In short, there are specific issues and problems related to distracted driving that could be discussed every day.  Unfortunately, too many people continue to drive distracted despite the prevalence of this issue.  In continuation of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, we’d like to spread the word about another study that focuses on another related problem: smartphone distraction when driving and how often it plays a part in people’s trips.  Overall, smartphone distraction may be an even bigger problem than those who have studied this issue have estimated.

About the Smartphone Distraction Study

Researchers at Zendrive compiled the data for the study.  Zendrive is an app that drivers can use to track their behaviors while behind the wheel.  The research team analyzed the following for the study:

  • 3.1 million anonymous drivers
  • 570 million trips in their vehicles
  • 5.6 billion miles traveled
  • Tracking ran between December of 2016 and February of 2017

The drivers in the study use the Zendrive app.  The study focused on distracted driving in general but specifically the use of smartphones while behind the wheel.  Overall, the researchers found the following:

  • Drivers used their smartphones during 88 percent of their driving trips.
  • The average amount of phone use was 3.5 minutes for every hour behind the wheel.
  • Removing your focus from the road for 2 seconds increases your collision risk by a factor of 20.
  • A vehicle moving at 55 miles per hour travels the length of 2 full basketball courts in 2 seconds.

Those who would like to review the report can find it here.  When the researchers extrapolated the data to the general population, they found that motorists in the United States drive distracted approximately 600 million times per day.  The study did not differentiate between talking on the phone or sending or reading text messages.  Every smartphone distraction was measured equally.  These are clearly troubling statistics and they indicate that despite all of the awareness, all of the laws and all of the problems related to distracted driving and smartphone distraction in general, the vast majority of motorists continue to use their phones while behind the wheel.

Smartphone Distraction – Rankings By Jurisdiction

The researchers broke down their data further, ranking the jurisdictions across the country in terms of the average percentage of time people spent using their phones while driving on a daily basis.  Below you’ll find the 10 most distracted states based on the parameters of the study, listed from most distracted to least distracted:

Ranking State Average Percentage of Phone Time While Driving Hand-Held Phone Ban?
51 – Most Distracted Vermont 7.42 percent Yes
50 Mississippi 6.85 percent No
49 Louisiana 6.38 percent No
48 Alabama 5.76 percent No
47 Arkansas 5.75 percent No
46 Oklahoma 5.64 percent No
45 New Jersey 5.60 percent Yes
44 Rhode Island 5.58 percent No
43 Missouri 5.56 percent No
42 Massachusetts 5.49 percent No

What that means is that motorists in Vermont, for example, spend 7.42 percent of every drive distracted by their smartphones.  That equates to nearly 4.5 minutes for every hour of driving.

In contrast, below you’ll find the 10 states least affected by smartphone distraction, listed from least distracted to 10th least distracted:

Ranking State Average Percentage of Phone Time While Driving Hand-Held Phone Ban?
1 – Least Distracted Oregon 3.69 percent Yes
2 Washington 3.96 percent Yes
3 Idaho 4.01 percent No
4 Hawaii 4.07 percent Yes
5 Montana 4.11 percent No
6 Nevada 4.14 percent Yes
7 California 4.24 percent Yes
8 Utah 4.25 percent No
9 Wyoming 4.30 percent No
10 New Mexico 4.40 percent Yes

Even in Oregon, which in this study was the least distracted jurisdiction in the United States, motorists spend an average of more than 2.2 minutes every hour distracted by their smartphones.

Distracted Driving Accident Statistics

It’s only recently that we’ve acquired the capability to tangibly measure the amount of time we spend using our phones while driving.  That’s significant because it appears that reporting and recording bodies will still need some time to accurately track the data regarding smartphone distraction and resulting car accidents, injuries and fatalities.  It seems likely that the numbers relating to distracted driving car accidents are going to skyrocket as data becomes more collectible.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, tracks general statistics regarding distracted driving car accidents.  According to the agency, 3,477 people died in American car accidents in 2015 because of this problem.  Nearly 400,000 people were injured in crashes caused by distracted driving.  The numbers have been climbing in recent years, and as more distractions become available the more dangerous the roads may become.

There have been studies published that conclude that distracted driving is as dangerous as drunk driving.  If that’s accurate and nearly 90 percent of drivers are moving down the roads despite the presence of a smartphone distraction, it should prompt anyone who engages in this behavior to modify it.  If nearly 90 percent of the people on the roads across the country were under the influence of alcohol and/or some other intoxicant at any given time, there would be public outcry and likely action taken by every level of government and concerned groups and individuals.

How San Diego Car Accident Lawyers Can Help

One way in which people can help deal with this burgeoning problem is to make sure that they hold anyone who causes a car accident while driving distracted accountable.  Doing so could help to act as a deterrent both for that motorist and for anyone else he or she speaks to in the future with regards to the risks involved with distracted driving.  Such a step would also help to make that injured person or that grieving family as whole as possible after a crash.  A problem this prevalent requires the attention and effort of everyone in order to move it in the proper direction.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a crash caused by a distracted driver, you need to seek the help of San Diego car accident lawyers who have been fighting for the rights of clients for more than 10 years.  Contact Gomez Trial Attorneys today for a free case evaluation.


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