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The Anatomy of Distracted Driving

A key indicator of risk is a driver’s distraction habits is how much and in what ways the driver chooses to use their smartphone during vehicle operation. Our technology measures a driver’s phone use, including their tendency to make phone calls while driving and non-call usage habits, such as their propensity for texting or web browsing while driving.

Categories of distracted driving

The figure below describes how we categorize phone-based distraction. First, distraction breaks down into two main categories: phone calls (voice calls made through the cellular phone network) and phone usage (non-call smartphone applications such as text messaging, email, web browsing, and social media platforms). We further divide phone calls into hand-held (calls made while physically holding up the phone) and hands-free (calls made without handling the phone, typically while using a Bluetooth connection to a headset or the automobile’s audio connection). Similarly, algorithms divide phone usage into active use (applications that require a high level of interaction with the phone, such as text messaging) and passive use (applications that require a low level of interaction with the phone, such as GPS navigation).

The distraction metrics, as displayed in our apps, use a smartphone’s motion sensors to characterize how the driver is handling the device (for instance, whether they are actively tapping, typing, or swiping), in addition to knowing precisely which smartphone applications and services a driver is using.

Figure A: Taxonomy of smartphone distraction


Classifying distraction

During trip recording, the device operating system reports when a phone call is in progress, as well as reporting when the screen is illuminated and when the device is unlocked. Consequently, the TrueMotion app can use this information to distinguish among the following:

  •  Phone calls: intervals during a trip when a phone call was in progress.
  •  Phone use: intervals during a trip when a phone call was not in progress, but when the device was unlocked and the screen was illuminated.
  •  No phone distraction: intervals during a trip when the phone was locked and the screen was off.

Learn more about distracted driving here.


Categories: Distracted Driving,Tech in Motion,Telematics,Usage Based Insurance