Distracted driving-related collisions are up to 49% more severe when they occur on a highway system, indicating that modifying roadway design could improve safety in distracted driving crashes, according to a new study.
The Ohio State University's Risk Institute study also found that distracted driving crashes were more severe in specific road settings.
For example, in work zones, distracted driving crashes were up to two times more likely to be fatal. In addition, the length of a roadway segment or the number of lanes also had an impact on the frequency of distracted driving collisions.
Conversely, roundabouts had a significant effect on reducing the severity of distracted driving-related crashes. Between 2013 and 2017, there were no fatal crashes within roundabouts.
In addition, roadways that feature a median or a shoulder with an asphalt pavement also experienced fewer distracted driving crashes.
The researchers also explored the impact of urban versus rural roadways as it relates to collisions. Urban areas — Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati — were more vulnerable to vehicle crashes in general than other regions in Ohio. The risk of crashes due to distracted driving was highest in the Columbus area.
Another noteworthy finding, distracted driving crashes are five to 10 times more likely to be fatal than severe in a rear end or angle crash.
Between 2003 and 2013, Ohio experienced a 35% increase in distracted driving fatalities and a 23% increase in serious injuries. Presently, distracted driving-related crashes account for approximately 18% of overall Ohio crash fatalities and 16% of Ohio serious crash injuries.
While the paper is still unpublished, the research team analyzed 1.4 million police records obtained from the Ohio Department of Transportation for crashes that occurred between 2013 and 2017, reports the Wall Street Journal. During that timeframe, the number of distracted-driving-related crashes increased in Ohio, just as it did nationwide.
The analysis found that in-vehicle distractions accounted for 48% of the crashes. Younger drivers, especially those between 20 and 24 years of age, account for the highest percentage of crashes, both as a result of distracted driving and other causes.