A new study released by the Virginia Tech Tech Transportation Institute and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg sheds important – and conclusive – evidence about the growing problem of distracted driving.
What’s so unique about this study is that it is the first to use a National Academy of Sciences-sponsored “Naturalistic Driving” (ND) dataset. Naturalistic driving data — derived from multiple onboard video cameras and sensors — are able to show exactly what was happening in the moments leading up to a crash.
The study, which comprised 905 injurious and property damage crash events, is the first direct analysis, according to the authors, of causal factors using crashes only. At a high level, the research found that 68% of crashes involved some type of distraction and 51% of crashes involved distraction coinciding with some type of driver error. Overall, some sort of distraction was present during 52% of all normal driving time observed and corresponded to a 2x increase in the risk of a crash.
DISTRACTED DRIVERS ARE 2x MORE LIKELY TO BE IN A CAR CRASH
Simply put, distracted driving is a huge issue for US drivers. More than 50 percent of drivers engage in some sort of distracting activity, making them twice as likely to be involved in a crash compared to “model driving.” Not surprisingly, activities in which a driver takes his or her eyes off of the road are the riskiest.
If you follow the category like we do, you hear lots of people talk about other distracting factors, like applying makeup or tending to a child in the back seat. This study found that not a single crash occurred when an individual was “attending to personal hygiene.” Similarly, the results of this study show that drivers who interact with children are actually less likely to have a crash; the odds of a crash are even less than with model driving.
WHAT ACTIVITY INCREASES THE RISK OF A CAR CRASH THE MOST?
Unsurprisingly, it’s interacting with a handheld device, which carries with it a risk that is 3.6 times higher than model driving.
The report states that interacting with mobile devices is “probably the single factor that has created the greatest increase in US crashes in recent years, working against the general trend of crash and fatality reduction. An increased need or want to remain connected and productive via cell phones has the potential to escalate distraction-related crashes into the future.” If extrapolated to the general population, the study projects that “potentially 4 million of the 11 million crashes that occur each year in the United States could be avoided if distraction was not a factor.”
This study, drawing on concrete data from inside the vehicle, is so important because it sheds light on what was happening in the moments before a crash. It also shows what was happening in avoided crashes. This type of data surpasses the traditional type of forensic evaluation – skid marks, data from an OBD device or driver recall–and helps us really understand what causes crashes.
Of course, not every driver can or would subject themselves to the amount of technology, video and data collected for this study. So we have to learn what we can. But we don’t have to stop there. Through technology like Censio’s, we can have a similar look “inside” the car through examining whether or not a driver is distracted in the moments before a crash. Our technology, which runs unobtrusively in the background, is orders of magnitude less costly to install and maintain, and will yield insights and data that we believe will be as important as Naturalistic Driving.
Even better, we can continually show drivers where their risky driving behavior is, and give them the tools and knowledge to improve. In this way, we hope to play our part in the reduction of the overall prevalence of distracted driving.
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