Chapter 2:  Distracted Driving Behaviors

This section assesses drivers’ participation in potentially distracting behaviors while behind the wheel. Specifically it covers the following topics:

·         Presence of devices that may be distracting

·         Frequency of participating in potentially distracting behaviors involving technology

·         Frequency of participating in potentially distracting behaviors not involving technology

·         Estimated weekly trips made while engaged in potentially distracting behaviors

·         Wireless phone use

 


Ownership of Devices That May Distract Drivers

Ownership of Devices That May Be Distracting if Used While Driving

Wireless or cellular phones are the most common potentially distracting devices owned by drivers. Six out of ten (60%) drivers in the United States report that they have a wireless or cellular phone.  Slightly less than one in seven (15%) drivers have wireless remote Internet or e-mail access, while one in eight (12%) report having a beeper or pager. Fewer than one in ten drivers reports having a Personal Data Assistant (PDA) (8%).  While the types of in-car telematic systems vary, reported ownership of either an in-car navigation system or crash avoidance safety system is quite low at 5%.   [Figure 3-A]

Ownership of Devices That May Be Distracting – by Gender

While male and female drivers are equally likely to report having a wireless or cellular phone, male drivers are more likely to have a beeper or pager (16% as compared to 9% of females), or a PDA (10% vs. 7%).  [Figure 3-B] 

Ownership of Devices That May Be Distracting – by Age

While technological devices are often adopted more heavily by the young with use dwindling off as one ages, two thirds (66%) of those age 16-45 report wireless phone ownership, and 60% of those age 46-64 do.  Wireless phone use is lower among those over age 64, but 39% of drivers this age report having a wireless or cell phone. [Figure 3-C]

About one in ten drivers between the ages of 16-45 report having a PDA, with use dropping to 6% among 46-64 year olds and to 3% among those age 65 and older.  Wireless remote Internet or e-mail access shows a similar trend, with those under age 30 reporting the highest use (21%), falling to about one in six among those age 30-64, and dropping considerably to just 6% among those over age 64.

With the exception of drivers age 16-20, among whom reported use is slightly higher (9%), use of in-car navigation or crash avoidance systems is similar across age groups (about 5%).

While nearly one out of six (16%) drivers under age 21 report having a pager or beeper, presence of these devices drops to 11% among drivers in their 20s.  Beeper or pager ownership jumps again among those in their 30s and early 40s to 17%, while just 11% of those 46-64 have one.  As is true of the other technologies measured, only a small proportion of those age 65 or older report having one of these devices (2%).


 




Frequency of Engaging in Potentially Distracting Behaviors Involving Technology

 Use of Wireless/Cellular Phone While Driving

While six in ten (60%) drivers say they have a wireless/cellular phone, 58% of those with a wireless phone say they rarely or never use it to make outgoing calls while driving and 56% say they rarely or never take incoming calls on their cell phone while driving.  This amounts to about one in three of all drivers using a cell phone for outgoing or incoming calls while driving.

Of drivers with a cell phone, about 13% say they use their phone for outgoing or incoming calls on three-quarters or more of their driving.  This relates to about 8% of all drivers using a cell phone on the majority of their driving trips.  About three in ten drivers with cell phones say they use them on about one-quarter to one-half of their driving trips for outgoing (28%) or incoming (31%) calls. [Figure 4-A]

Male drivers with cell phones are more likely than their female counterparts to both make outgoing (46%) and accept incoming (50%) calls while driving (as compared to 39% of females doing each behavior).  [Figure 4-B]

While drivers age 21 or older with cell phones are about equally likely to use their cell phones for outgoing calls as they are to take incoming calls, cell phone-using drivers age 16-20 are more likely to use their cell phones to take incoming calls (63%) than they are to make outgoing calls while driving (40%).  Use of a cell phone while driving decreases significantly with age.  About six in ten cell phone owners age 21-29 use their phone for inbound or outbound calls while driving, compared to about one-half of those age 30-45, one-third of those age 46-64, and less than 10% of those age 65 or older.  [Figure 4-C] 

Use of Navigation System or Crash Avoidance System While Driving

Of the 5% of drivers who report having a navigational or crash avoidance system, just 30% (or about 1.5% of all drivers) say they use a navigational system or respond to a crash avoidance system while driving.  About 15% of owners say they use them for more than three quarters of their trips, while 15% use them for only about one-quarter to one-half of their driving trips. [Figure 4-A]

Use of Wireless Equipment – PDA or E-mail Access While Driving

Few drivers with wireless equipment such as a PDA or e-mail access actually use this equipment while driving.  Of the 15% of drivers who have remote Internet access, just 14% say they use this equipment while driving (or about 2% of all drivers). [Figure 4-A]

There is little difference in use by gender, but reported use of remote wireless access is highest among younger drivers and decreases with age. [Figure 4-C]

Answering or Checking Pages While Driving

About three in ten (29%) drivers with a pager or beeper say they answer or check their beeper/pager while driving, with 8% doing so on three-quarters or more of their trips.  This relates to about 3% of all drivers ever accessing a beeper or pager while driving.  Males (32%) and those under 30 (40%) are most likely to check or answer the page. [Figure 4-A]

Figure 19 in Appendix B presents a comparison of the proportion of the population who reported a specific frequency of behavior and the corresponding mean number of trips these drivers make undertaking the behavior.


Frequency of Potentially Distracting Behaviors Not Involving Technology

 


While driver behaviors involving technology such as cell phones, pagers, and Internet accessing devices have come into the forefront recently as important driver distractions, drivers continue to engage in many potentially distracting behaviors that do not involve these types of equipment.

 

Frequency of Conversing with Passengers

The overwhelming majority (81%) of drivers talk to other passengers while driving, with 47% doing so on about three-quarters or more of all driving trips and an additional 34% conversing with other passengers on about one-quarter to one-half of their trips. [Figure 5-A]

Male and female drivers are equally likely to talk with passengers while driving.  [Figure 5-B]

While older drivers are slightly less likely to talk to passengers while driving than younger drivers, about three-quarters of those over age 45 still engage in this activity.  [Figure 5-C]

Frequency of Other Behaviors Not Involving Technology

Nearly one in four (24%) drivers deal with children in the back seat of the car while driving.  One in ten (10%) say they engage in this action on the majority of their trips, while an additional 14% do so on about one-quarter to one-half of their driving trips.  [Figure 5-A]  This behavior can be especially distracting if the driver actually turns around to adjust the occupants or pick up a lost toy or offer food.

Female drivers are more likely to address the needs of children in the back seat while driving  (29% as compared to 20% of males).  [Figure 5-B]   While participation in most potentially distracting behaviors is highest among younger cohorts and decreases with age, dealing with small children is highest among drivers in their 30s and early 40s and drops off significantly among those age 45 or older.  [Figure 5-C]

 

While one in four drivers engage in this behavior, more than six in ten (62%) drivers who are parents or guardians of children 12 or younger display this behavior, with 30% doing so on a majority of their trips, and 32% doing so on about one-quarter to one-half of their driving trips.  Slightly less than one in ten (9%) drivers who are not parents or guardians of young children also engage in this behavior at least occasionally.  These drivers may be addressing the needs of grandchildren, children under their supervision, or others’ children.  [Figure 5-D]

 

Frequency of Other Behaviors Not Involving Technology

Half of all drivers (49%) report eating or drinking at least occasionally while driving, with 14% doing so on three-quarters or more of their driving trips.  Relatively fewer drivers report engaging in the other behaviors measured, with 8% engaging in personal grooming (such as putting on make-up, shaving, or looking in the mirror), 12% looking at maps or directions, and 4% reading printed material (such as a book, newspaper, or mail). 

Female drivers are three times more likely to engage in personal grooming (13% as compared to 4% of males), and are slightly more likely to eat or drink while driving.  [Figure 5-B]

Participation in these behaviors is generally highest among younger drivers and tapers off with age, with very few drivers over 64 engaging in these behaviors.  [Figure 5-C]

Figure 20 in Appendix B presents a comparison of the proportion of the population who reported a specific frequency of behavior and the corresponding mean number of trips these drivers make undertaking the behavior.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


Estimated Weekly Trips Made While Engaged in Potentially Distracting Behaviors

This section attempts to estimate the number of trips made by drivers who are engaged in potentially distracting behaviors.  The estimates were made by applying the reported frequency of trips respondents engaged in the various behaviors to the reported number of one-way weekly driving trips.  It is important to note that the frequency of engaging in the behaviors was asked in very broad categories. The following percentages values were assigned to the reported responses: 

 

“rarely or never”                                   5%

“about one quarter of driving trips”         25%

“about one-half of driving trips”              50%

“about three-quarters of driving trips”     75%

“all or most driving trips”                        90%

 

While we recognize that the scale uses broad categories for frequency of behavior, and may not discriminate all levels of frequency, these estimates are intended only to provide very rough estimates of the magnitude of distracted-related trips, and also to offer a relative comparison of the frequency of different types of potentially distracting behaviors.  These trip estimates do not take into account the length of the trip or, the level of engagement in or time spent involved in the reported behavior.  The number of trips may total to more than the 4.3 billion estimated total weekly trips as drivers may engage in more than one behavior on a trip.

 

Estimated Weekly Trips Engaging in Technology-based Behaviors

Drivers make an estimated 1.9 billion trips a week in which they change the radio or look for CDs or tapes.  An estimated 776 million trips (18% of all weekly trips) are made in an average week in which an outgoing wireless call was placed. About 792 million trips (19% of all trips) are made each week in which an incoming wireless call is accepted. While significantly fewer trips are made by drivers using other types of devices, a large number of trips are made each week by drivers who drive while accessing the wireless Internet (116 million or 3% of all trips), answering a pager or beeper (131 million or 3% of trips), and using navigation or crash avoidance systems (59 million or 1% of all weekly trips). [Figure 6-A]

Estimated Weekly Trips Engaging in Non-Technology-Based Behaviors

Driving trips involving non-technology-based behaviors are even more pervasive.  Close to an estimated 2.4 billion driving trips (about 56% of all trips) are made weekly by drivers who are conversing with other occupants, while more than 1.2 billion trips (29% of all trips) are made while the driver is eating or drinking.

Drivers make approximately 776 million trips weekly (18% of trips) while dealing with children in the back seat.  More than 300 million weekly trips are made by drivers who are looking at maps or directions (414 million or 10% of trips), engaging in personal grooming (349 million or 8% of trips) or reading printed materials (303 million or 7% of trips).      [Figure 6-B]


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


Wireless Phone Use

Use for Outbound vs. Inbound Calls

About half (49%) of drivers who own cell phones say they rarely or never use their cell phones while driving for any reason. Of drivers who use their cell phones on at least some driving trips, nearly two out of ten (18%) use their cell phone only to make outgoing calls, about one of ten (12%) use their cell phone only for incoming calls while driving, and 70% use them for both incoming and outgoing calls.  [Figure 7-A] 

Method of Wireless Phone Use

More than six out of ten (63%) drivers who use cell phones while driving say they usually use a hand-held model phone, while about one in three (34%) usually use a hands-free model. Males (38%) are more likely to use a hands-free phone while driving than females (30%).  Use of a hands-free phone while driving is more prevalent among younger drivers (38% of those under age 30) and declines with age to just 26% of those over age 64.  [Figure 7-B] 

Average Time Spent on Phone Per Call

Drivers who use cell phones while driving average about 4.5 minutes per call.  However, 50% say they typically spend approximately 2.0 minutes or less per call while driving. Only about 13% report spending more than 10 minutes on average, per call while driving.  Younger drivers average longer call times (6.8 minutes for drivers under 21 and 5.5 minutes for those in their 20s), with time decreasing with age to averages of less than two minutes for drivers over age 64 (1.8 minutes on average).   Female drivers average slightly longer phone conversations while driving than do their male counterparts (4.9 minutes and 4.2 minutes respectively).  [Figure 7-C and 7-D]

Driving Situations Would Not Use Cell Phone

While half of drivers with cell phones use their cell phone on at least some of their driving trips, there are instances where these cell phone-using drivers would not use their phones.  Only 7% say there are no driving situations where they would refrain from using their cell phones.  Nearly half (47%) say they would not use a cell phone while driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic or city driving and about four in ten (43%) would not use their cell phone in bad weather.  About one in ten (11%) won’t use their phone in fast-moving freeway traffic.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


Crash Experience Related to Cell Phone Use or Other        Distracted Driving

Involvement in a Crash as a Result of Wireless Phone Use

About one quarter (26%) of drivers have been involved in a crash in the past five years where there was damage to a vehicle. Slightly less than one percent (.6%) of those involved in a crash (.1% of all drivers) attribute the crash to wireless phone use.  Drivers under age 30 are more likely to have been involved in such a crash, with .3% of all drivers this age having been in a crash they attribute to wireless phone use. [Figure 8-A]

Though the proportion of drivers involved in a crash they attribute to wireless phone use is very small, it relates to an estimated 292,000 drivers over the past five years.  Female drivers report about two-thirds of these crash experiences (about 197,000).  [Figure 8-B]

Involvement in a Crash as a Result of Distracted Driving

A larger proportion of drivers have been involved in a crash as a result of other distracted driving activities.  About 14% of drivers involved in a crash in the past five years (3.5% of all drivers) attribute the crash to distracted driving. Male drivers (4.7%) were about twice as likely as female drivers (2.3%) to have done so.  [Figure 8-A]

Drivers under age 30 were significantly more likely to have been in a crash they attribute to distracted driving (about 6%), with involvement in such a crash decreasing directly with age to less than 2% of drivers 65 or older.

Figure 8-C shows the estimated number of drivers involved in a crash they attribute to distracted driving in the past five years along with likely high and low ranges of the estimates.  It is important to keep in mind that these are self-reported data and are subject to potential recall errors, particularly as they cover a large time frame.

Over the past five years an estimated 7.2 million drivers have been in a crash while driving which they attribute to being distracted.  About 4.7 million, or two-thirds, of these drivers, were male. Youth drivers make up a disproportionally large number of these drivers. About 985,000 drivers under age 21 were involved in a distracted-driving crash.  This is 13% of all drivers involved in a crash, yet youth drivers make up just 6% of the driving population.  Similarly, about 1.7 million drivers in their 20s had a distracted-related crash, which is 23% of all involved drivers.  However, drivers in their 20s account for just 13% of the driving population.  Conversely, just 592,000 drivers over age 64 report a crash.  This is 8% of drivers in a crash, while these older drivers make up 17% of the population.  [Figure 8-C]

Cause of the Distraction That Led to a Crash

Of the approximately 7.2 million drivers involved in a distracted-related crash within the past five years, nearly one-quarter (23%) say they were distracted by looking for something outside the vehicle, (0.8% of all drivers) such as a building or street sign, while an additional 11% were distracted by another driver (0.4% of drivers), and 3% were distracted by an animal outside of the car.  About one of five (19%) drivers involved in a distracted-related crash (0.7% of all drivers) were dealing with a child or other passenger.  One in seven (14% or 0.5% of all drivers) were looking for something inside the vehicle.  An additional one in five were distracted by some other distraction. [Figure 8-D]

 

 

 

 



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