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The United States of Distraction

Distracted driving is a nationwide epidemic. 169 million US drivers, or 76%, spend at least 5% of their driving time distracted. That’s nearly 4 minutes a day for the average American, the equivalent of driving 32 football fields. It’s a crisis that kills over 3,400 people every year. And it affects every state.

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Historically, it’s been difficult to measure the impact of distracted driving by state. After all, official crash statistics don’t exist in many states. And the states that do track distraction aren’t tracking or reporting in a uniform way. Some provide a checkbox for police on the crash report. Others have an open comment box on the crash report for officers to complete. The rest don’t track distraction. Overall, it’s messy and inconsistent. And it makes analyses difficult.

Even in states that track distracted driving, distraction goes underreported. Police are trained to look for other dangerous driving behaviors, like drunk driving. And, there’s no breathalyzer equivalent for distracted driving. Police have to catch you in the act of distraction.

We want to change how we approach distracted driving. Smartphone driving data can provide an unprecedented look into state-level distracted driving behaviors. We can see the states with the lowest and highest levels of distraction. And, by looking at the number of drivers per state, we can extrapolate the amount of distracted time.

For this analysis, we looked at 35.6 million trips throughout the United States. The timeframe was 6 months, from October 1, 2017 through April 1, 2018. We focused on texting and app usage, which is typically 3-5 times higher than handheld and hands-free calls. The percentages represent the total amount of driving time people spend texting and using apps.

The United States of Distraction
The heat map above shows levels of distraction across all 50 states. Lighter orange is less distracted. Darker orange is more intense distraction. You can see that there are two pockets of lighter states – New England and the northwest. Combined, they make up 7 of the 10 least distracted states in the country. Aside from Hawaii, the top 10 most distracted states are in the south and midwest. (Click the map for a larger version.)

The range between the most distracted and the least distracted states is gaping. Alaskan drivers are distracted 10.9% of the time. Mississippi drivers, by contrast, are distracted nearly double that amount – 20.6%.

The Top 5
The least distracted states are Alaska (10.9%), Oregon (11.9%), Vermont (12.5%), Massachusetts (12.5%), and New Hampshire (12.7%).

The Bottom 5
The most distracted states are Mississippi (20.6%), Georgia (20.4%), Florida (19.7%), Missouri (19.6%), and Louisiana (19.6%).

States with more drivers can have an outsized impact on distraction
We also looked at the number of drivers per state and calculated the total amount of distracted driving time – based on an average 72 minutes of daily driving time. With over 26 million drivers, California has the most in the country. Californian drivers spend 14.8% of the time distracted, making for a whopping 530 years of distraction every day. For perspective, it takes 20 of the smaller states to reach 510 years of distraction. If California dropped their level of distraction to 10.9% – Alaska’s level – it would take 140 years of daily distraction off the roads.

The Complete List

Rank

State

Distraction

1

Alaska

10.9%

2

Oregon

11.9%

3

Vermont

12.5%

4

Massachusetts

12.5%

5

New Hampshire

12.7%

6

New York

13%

7

Washington

13.5%

8

Montana

13.6%

9

Utah

13.9%

10

Connecticut

14.1%

11

Virginia

14.4%

12

Maine

14.6%

13

North Carolina

14.7%

14

California

14.8%

15

Minnesota

15%

16

Wyoming

15.1%

17

West Virginia

15.3%

18

Michigan

15.4%

19

Nevada

15.8%

20

Colorado

16.1%

21

Wisconsin

16.2%

22

New Mexico

16.3%

23

New Jersey

16.4%

24

South Dakota

16.5%

25

Delaware

16.6%

26

Illinois

17%

27

Rhode Island

17.2%

28

Idaho

17.2%

29

Texas

17.2%

30

Arkansas

17.3%

31

Pennsylvania

17.4%

32

Kansas

17.5%

33

Ohio

17.7%

34

North Dakota

17.8%

35

Nebraska

17.8%

36

Iowa

17.8%

37

Indiana

17.8%

38

Kentucky

18.3%

39

Arizona

18.3%

40

Maryland

18.4%

41

Hawaii

18.5%

42

Alabama

18.7%

43

Tennessee

18.7%

44

South Carolina

19%

45

Oklahoma

19.4%

46

Louisiana

19.6%

47

Missouri

19.6%

48

Florida

19.7%

49

Georgia

20.4%

50

Mississippi

20.6%

Something to think about before you go
The amount of time spent driving distracted every day in the US – 5,000+ years – at the average speed of 31 MPH would get you from Earth close to Uranus – 1.3 billion miles.

What do you think of the list? Were you surprised by any of the results? Send us your thoughts on Twitter!

Categories: Blog,Distracted Driving