Distracted Driving
Photo: Creative Commons

We’ve all heard of the dangers of texting, tweeting or doing whatever else on your cell phone while driving, but it seems people aren’t heeding those warnings. Across the country, there’s actually been an increase in people driving while distracted, according to a new report.

 

Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT), the company behind the tech in apps like Boston’s Safest Driver, released data from a new analysis of more than 65 million trips taken by drivers in seven cities.

 

“We did a similar analysis last year, and last year we observed the percentage of trips with distraction across the nation was 31 percent,” said  Katherine Wellman of CMT. “This year, it’s up to 36 percent. It’s certainly increasing rather than decreasing, and that’s disconcerting.”

 

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and Wellman hopes that by releasing this report, people can be more mindful of their own behavior.

 

According to 2016 data, motor vehicle deaths increased 14 percent over two years, and distracted driving is a factor: drivers who have been in a crash exhibited 3.4 times more distraction while driving than the average driver, CMT found. 

 

There are three main types of distraction behind the wheel: manual (like eating or holding a drink), visual (ie. taking your eyes off the road to change the radio) and cognitive (when your mind isn’t focused on driving).

“The concerning thing about smartphone distraction is that it actually usually includes two, if not all three, of these,” Wellman said. “If people are manually holding their phone, looking down at it, thinking about what they’re texting or reading, then all three of these are captured and as a result, it can be very, very dangerous.”

But the issue isn’t exactly that drivers are unaware of the potential danger. In fact, people are really concerned about others doing it.

In another recent CMT survey, people said the thing they fear most about other drivers on the road is that they’ll be distracted while driving. This fear tops concerns about others driving while drunk, Wellman said.

An AAA report out last week reached a similar conclusion: 88 percent of drivers believe distracted driving is on the rise as a risky behavior, beating out other dangers like aggressive driving and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“I think people are starting to become aware of [distracted driving],” Wellman said, “however, people are also very addicted to using their phones. It’s a matter of trying to increase awareness, increase dialogue and motivate people to really curb their behavior.”

So what can you do? Wellman suggests downloading an app like Highway Hero or EverDrive, both based on CMT technology, to see your behavior. Those apps will give you feedback on when you use your phone while driving. You’ll get a score and can earn badges for achievements like completing a certain number of phone-free driving trips in a row.

Distracted driving by the numbers

30 percent of all distracted driving occurs over 50 miles per hour
19.82 percent of distracted driving occurs between 30 and 40 miles per hour
2.67: the number of seconds the average driver nationally is distracted per mile
3.4: the number of seconds Boston drivers are distracted per mile
3.77: the number of seconds Philadelphia drivers are distracted per mile
Nationally, drivers are distracted for 36.06 percent of all trips
In Boston, drivers are distracted for 36.78 percent of all trips
In Philadelphia, drivers are distracted for 39.97 percent of all trips