Study: Drivers With Smartphones Use Them On 88% Of Trips

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Auto drivers that own smartphones use them during around 88% of the trips they take, going by data collected by the firm Zendrive. Zendrive uses the sensors found in smartphones to analyze driving behavior — so, while the findings are probably broadly true, there are caveats that go with them.

To explain that further, roughly 77% of drivers own smartphones (the vast majority of drivers out there, in other words), and 88% of the trips those people take engage a smartphone to at least some degree. Basically, most drivers are staring at smartphones at some point while driving around, on nearly every trip they take.

Considering how rapidly traffic deaths have been rising in the US in recent years, these findings are important — though, it seems likely that other factors are playing a significant part in the rise as well (rising drug use, rising use of mood-altering prescription medication, and an increasingly senile and elderly driver pool).

This reality is one of the reasons that we cover self-driving vehicle tech so much here at CleanTechnica — most people who drive don’t seem to want to, and thus endanger others while not fully focused on the road, so why not let a computer do the driving for them?

With regard to the new research, “extrapolating to the entire population, Zendrive estimates there are about 600 million trips involving distracted driving in the US each day.”

Streetsblog provides more: “The dataset was collected over 90 days from 10 billion miles driven by 5 million motorists with Zendrive’s tech running on their devices, including both professional drivers and non-professionals.

“Prior research has determined that taking your eyes off the road for as little as two seconds can make a collision 4 to 24 times more likely. The Zendrive data suggests drivers often engage in several distracting incidents in a single trip. During an average one-hour trip, drivers spent 3.5 minutes using their phones. (Zendrive counted only ‘digital manipulation’ of phones, not hands-free use, though the company acnknowledges that hands-free use also impairs cognition while driving.)”

That’s not too surprising based on what I’ve seen, but interesting to see exact figures.

Importantly, there was quite a lot of variation on the state level — with drivers in the worst states (Vermont, for instance) spending more than twice as much time using their smartphones during a trip as those in the “best” states, I put that in quotes because even in those states (Oregon, for instance) drivers were still on average spending ~3.5% of their trip looking at their smartphone.

Something else that’s interesting to note is that states where there’s a ban on handheld phone use during driving apparently tend to see less use. Though, that’s not always the case, as the worst state, Vermont, has a ban in place (that’s apparently ineffective).


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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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