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Texting during holiday driving: It’s worse than you thought

If you’re like roughly one third of Americans, you traveled somewhere by car this holiday season to spend time with family and friends, and to eat, drink, and generally be merry. Unfortunately, the winter holidays are among the most dangerous days to drive throughout the year – over 27,000 people are seriously injured in car crashes, and over 250 are killed.

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Besides the winter weather and influx of people on the road, we wanted to see if drivers are more distracted during the holidays. To find out, we looked at over 3,000 drivers in the US from November 18, 2017 – January 3, 2018. What we discovered is concerning.

Drivers text and use apps over 30% more during the holidays

On an average weekday, drivers spend about 9% of their time actively using their phones. Active phone use includes texting, reading email, going on Facebook, Instagram, etc. – passive use with maps and music were not included in the analysis. During the holidays, active phone use while driving jumps up to 12%, an increase of 33%.

Holiday speeding and distracted driving behavior

Drivers text most on Thanksgiving

While texting and app usage during driving was up across the board during the winter holidays, Thanksgiving stands out as the most egregious. Active phone use while driving was up nearly 50% on Thanksgiving compared to a typical weekday. Christmas saw the second highest increase with 33%. New Year’s Eve was the lowest of the group, with a 26% bump.

Drivers speed more during the holidays, too

In addition to looking at drivers’ levels of distraction, we analyzed their general driving behaviors as well. On the average weekday, people speed 25% of the time. That number increased by 45% on average during the holidays.

Holiday speeding and distracted driving behavior

Drivers speed 50% more on Thanksgiving

As with texting and app usage, Thanksgiving was the worst of the holidays for speeding. (Maybe it’s the turkey and gravy?) Compared to a regular weekday, drivers speed 52% more on Thanksgiving. Christmas is a distant second, up 44% against the average, with New Years Day just behind at a 40% jump.

But phone calls are down…

It’s not all bad news, though. While people may be texting and speeding more often during the holidays, they’re making less phone calls from the road, both handheld and hands-free. Compared to the average weekday, holiday road calls were down 45%.

More people travel on Thanksgiving, and they travel longer distances

We also wanted to understand if driving patterns changed holiday to holiday, so we looked at the number of drivers and the distance they travel. We found that over 25% more people travel on Thanksgiving than Christmas, and that they drive an average of 49 miles, with the average longest trip being 14 miles. Of all the holidays, people travel the least  on Christmas.

While there is some good news in the data, namely that phone calls are down while driving, the outlook for holiday driving is relatively bleak. Overall, we spend more time texting and speeding while driving, and more time overall on the roads, during the winter holidays. That’s a bad recipe. As we’re all looking at resolutions for 2018, here’s an easy one to add to your list: When you drive, don’t actively use your phone.

Categories: Blog,Distracted Driving