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US Drivers Distracted by Their Phones on 88% of Trips

Paul Ausick

According to a new study released Monday, U.S. drivers used their smartphones on 88% of the 570 million trips they took between December and February. That works out to 5.6 million trips daily, based only on the drivers tracked in the study. Extrapolated to the entire U.S. population, drivers on nearly 600 million daily trips were using their phones while driving.

Using a phone while driving falls under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) definition of distracted driving. According to an agency report published in March, 10% of fatal crashes, 15% of injury crashes and 14% of all police-reported vehicle traffic crashes in 2015 were reported as distraction-affected crashes. The NHTSA estimates that 27,875 Americans were killed on U.S. highways in the first three quarters of last year, an increase of 8% compared with the same period in 2015.

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The study released Monday was conducted by Zendrive, a provider of software to measure driver behavior for fleet owners, among other things, and is the largest distracted driving study conducted to date according to the company.

How serious is the problem? According to Zendrive, very serious:

Zendrive researchers also found that during an hour-long trip, drivers spent an average of 3.5-minutes using their phones. This finding is frightening, especially when you consider that a 2-second distraction is long enough to increase your likelihood of crashing by over 20-times. In other words, that’s equivalent to 105 opportunities an hour that you could nearly kill yourself and/or others.

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The 10 states where distracted driving was most common are listed here, along with the average percentage of time spent using their phones while driving:

  1. Vermont: 7.42%
  2. Mississippi: 6.85%
  3. Louisiana: 6.38%
  4. Alabama: 5.76%
  5. Arkansas: 5.75%
  6. Oklahoma: 5.64%
  7. New Jersey: 5.60%
  8. Rhode Island: 5.58%
  9. Missouri: 5.56%
  10. Massachusetts: 5.49%

Of these 10 states, two have laws banning hand-held phone use while driving: Vermont and New Jersey.

The 20 states where distracted driving was least common are listed here along with the average percentage of time spent using their phones while driving:

  1. Oregon: 3.69%
  2. Washington: 3.96%
  3. Idaho: 4.01%
  4. Hawaii: 4.07%
  5. Montana: 4.11%
  6. Nevada: 4.14%
  7. California: 4.24%
  8. Utah: 4.25%
  9. Wyoming: 4.30%
  10. New Mexico: 4.40%

Of these 10 states, six have laws banning hand-held phone use while driving: Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Nevada, California and New Mexico.

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The city with the most distracted drivers is Los Angeles, and the city with the least is Seattle. Of the 15 cities ranked in the study, eight had laws banning hand-held phone use.

The full study and a description of the methodology used to amass the data are available here.

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