Drivers are frequently looking at their smartphones–on 88 out of 100 trips according to a new study–despite the well-publicized dangers of distracted driving.
The finding equates to 600 million rides per day nationwide of people taking the risk of texting or reading email on their phones, according to startup Zendrive, which conducted the study using anonymized data from its customers. Phone-distracted drivers used their devices for an average of 3.5 minutes per hour, Zendrive said.
Auto deaths have risen for two straight years, marking the biggest increase in more than five decades. While lower gas prices have encouraged more driving, distracted driving due to cellphones has been tapped as one of the major causes. That has prompted many states to begin cracking down on phone use while driving with laws outlawing the behavior.
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By state, Vermont had the highest rate of phone-distracted driving, despite banning the use of handheld phones by drivers. Drivers on average used their phones for 7.4% of their total trip time, or 4.4 minutes per hour. The second-worst state was Mississippi, at 6.9% of trip time, followed by Louisiana at 6.4% and Alabama at 5.8%. None of those states have such a ban, Zendrive said.
Oregon had the least distracted drivers, at 3.7% per trip or 2.2 minutes per hour, followed by Washington at 4%, Idaho at 4%, and Hawaii at 4.1%. All but Idaho of those four have adopted driver phone usage bans. Zendrive posted the entire ranking of all states on its web site.
Although Vermont ranked worst and has a phone use ban which started in 2014, in general, states with such laws fared better in deterring phone-distracted driving, Zendrive said.
“It appears that at the state-level, laws that ban hand-held phone use actually reduce the amount of time per trip drivers use their phones,” the study noted. “Of the ten states with the lowest levels of phone use, six have laws limiting phone use while driving.”
It is possible that the Zendrive study overstates the rate of distracted driving among the general populace because the study didn’t use randomly selected participants. Rather, it was derived from the company’s customer data. Zendrive sells a service to monitor and improve driving in commercial car and truck fleets, aimed particularly at on-demand businesses.
The company said it looked at anonymized behavior from 3.1 million drivers on 570 million trips covering 5.6 billion miles between December 2016 and February 2017.