The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Gridlock Lures Drivers into Phone Distractions

November 16, 2016

During rush-hour traffic, drivers are more likely to reach for their phone.
During rush-hour traffic, drivers are more likely to reach for their phone.

In cities where traffic can slow to a crawl, motorists are more likely to reach for their phone to read a text, send a text, or open an app. And the top 10 apps that drivers open are, in order: Google Maps, Pokemon Go, Android Messaging, Facebook, YouTube, Waze, Amazon Music, Google Chrome, Pandora, and NetFlix, according to a study from True Motion.

TrueMotion, formerly known as Censio, has developed an app/technology platform that monitors data tied to driver behavior so that insurance companies can better assess risk level and offer discounts when warranted. The company created the technology for Progressive Insurance’s Snapshot program.

For its study, TrueMotion analyzed nearly 522,000 trips involving 7,595 drivers. Of those drivers, 7,042 had some type of phone use while driving. Distracted driving accounted for 21% of their time behind the wheel. A surprising 71% of drivers were at least sometimes engaged in reading or sending texts. Drivers spent 18% of the time with a phone in hand and 6% of the time on a phone call.

The app usage statistics are based on a smaller sample size: 9,164 driver trips taken by 251 drivers with Android phones only.

During a recent conference held by the National Transportation Safety Board, the True Motion study was cited as part of a presentation from Robert Gordon, senior vice president of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

Gordon explained that the frequency of auto collisions is on the rise in urban centers where traffic congestion is worsening, the Washington Post reported. But at the same time, he noted, collision rates are dropping in areas where gridlock conditions are less common. For example, collision frequency dropped 11.3% in Alaska from 2014 to 2016. In Washington, D.C., however, collision frequency climbed 14% during the same period.

When trapped in bumper-to-bumper traffic, drivers are much more likely to start using their phone. “Our auto insurance companies feel the biggest cause of the increasing accident frequency is this type of distracted driving,” Gordon said. The association’s analysis relied on insurance industry data on crashes and Federal Highway Administration data on congestion.

In the first half of 2016, an estimated 17,775 people died in U.S. traffic crashes, according to projections from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That figure represents a 10.4% increase from the same six-month period in 2015.

This increase has been attributed to a host of factors, including distracted driving.

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  1. 1. Chris [ November 22, 2016 @ 12:53PM ]

    There is a big difference between checking traffic in Google Maps/Waze and playing Pokemon Go or watching YouTube while driving. While abstaining from any use is optimal, this is a distinction that is glaringly absent from this article. And based on my own experience, the slight deviation from the hell that is gridlock by briefly checking a phone when not moving on a freeway offers immense relief from succumbing to road rage which would make the roads less safe. The only real solution is to improve the transit infrastructure (and buses do not qualify as infrastructure).


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