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Distracted Driving Involved in 52% of Trips that End in a Crash

Data from a study involving several hundreds of thousands of drivers shows that phone distraction occurred during 52 percent of trips that resulted in a crash, according to a new report by Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT).

Apps by CMT, a smartphone-centric telematics provider, measure driving behavior in six categories: phone use while driving, excessive speeding, braking, acceleration, cornering, and time of driving. These apps provide actionable information to drivers so they can understand and improve their driving behavior.

Threat of distracted driving

Key findings of the CMT study include:

  • Distracted driving occurred during 52 percent of trips that resulted in a crash.
  • On drives that involved a crash, the average duration of distraction was 135 seconds.
  • Phone distraction lasts for two minutes or more on 20 percent of drives with distraction, and often occurs at high speeds: 29 percent at speeds exceeding 56 miles per hour.
  • The worst 10 percent of distracted drivers are 2.3 times more likely to be in a crash than the average driver, and 5.8 times more likely than the best 10 percent of distracted drivers.

Road fatalities have increased significantly in the past few years. The National Safety Council (NSC) found that the number of fatalities on U.S. roads rose by 14 percent since 2015, the largest two-year increase in five decades.

Anti-phone laws marginally effective

The Insurance Information Institute has found that phone use while driving has increased steadily in recent years, especially among young drivers. The NSC reports that 11 teens die every day as a result of texting while driving. To combat this issue, 37 states ban all cell phone use by novice or teen drivers, and many states have enacted some anti-cellphone legislation.

CMT’s data shows that states with anti-cellphone laws have only slightly safer drivers than those that don’t. The average duration of phone distraction per 100 miles of driving for three categories of states is:

  • States with laws against all handheld use: 3.17 minutes
  • States with laws against all handheld use for “under 18” drivers: 3.25 minutes
  • States with no laws against any handheld use: 3.82 minutes

Collision claims frequency has also skyrocketed in the U.S. over the past several years, causing auto insurance companies to experience record losses in the billions of dollars. Although smartphones have contributed to this problem, CMT’s work shows that the smartphone presents a new opportunity to accurately measure and reduce distracted driving at a low cost.

Changing course

“Distracted driving due to smartphone use is intuitively blamed for the increase in road crashes and claims,” said Hari Balakrishnan, Chief Technology Officer of CMT. “What’s less intuitive is that smartphones hold the solution to the problem they created. Drivers now have access to tools that analyze their driving and achieve real behavioral change through immediate and ongoing feedback.”

Apps based on CMT’s DriveWell solution automatically record phone sensor data when a drive is occurring. By analyzing this data after a drive, these apps provide feedback to drivers. They also use contests, leaderboards, achievement goals, and personalized driving tips.

The feedback and gamification in these apps engage users well and lead to dramatic improvements in driving behavior. Within only 30 days of use, phone distraction reduces by 35 percent (40 percent by day 60), while risky speeding and hard braking reduce by 20 percent, on average across all users. Even after 200 days of use, DriveWell users sustain at least a 25 percent reduction in distracted driving.

In addition to drivers, insurers around the world have benefited from the sustained driving improvements of DriveWell users. Participating insurers report higher retention rates, doubling of customer growth rate, 34 percent reduction in claims, and 19 percent reduction in the severity of claims.

“This data makes it clear that distracted driving is one of the most urgent public safety problems facing our communities today,” said Balakrishnan. “With April being Distracted Driving Awareness Month, it’s important to take a critical look at how we can most effectively reduce the danger that drivers face. By harnessing the very technology that threatens driver safety, and using it to help drivers understand and improve their behavior, we’re making the world safer by the day.”

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