Distracted driving

Lights, Camera, Distraction: Oscar Sunday sees a 4.7% rise in distracted driving

March 8, 2024

As Hollywood’s biggest night captures the world’s attention, risky driving behavior increases. The Oscars, celebrated for its cinematic achievements, has a less advertised cost – a significant spike in distracted driving.

We recently published an analysis on the rise in distracted driving on Super Bowl Sunday. With the Oscars airing this weekend, we wanted to take a closer look at the data to see if there’s a similar increase.

In 2023, the Oscars garnered 19.9 million viewers. Though viewership has declined over the years, the show typically generates 15-20 million viewers. Like the Super Bowl, the Oscars represents more than a broadcast — it’s a cultural event that commands attention. The various news events and speeches that come out of it create moments for smartphone notifications and socializing, elevating the conditions for distracted driving.

CMT’s new analysis looks at the last four Oscar Sundays, starting in 2020. When we compare Oscar Sunday to the weeks surrounding it, we find that distracted driving goes up by 4.7% on the day of the awards.

On an average day around the Oscars, drivers spend 2 minutes and 11 seconds per hour using their phones behind the wheel. On Oscar Sunday distracted driving increases to 2 minutes and 17 seconds, a 4.7% increase in screen interaction. CMT defines distracted driving — screen interaction — as when a driver taps on the screen while the vehicle is traveling over 9 mph. 

Since 2020, the surge of distracted driving on Oscar Sunday has fluctuated. In 2020, distraction rose to 2 minutes and 21 seconds – a 6.2% increase compared to the average day. 

In 2021, the distraction rise was the lowest we’ve seen on Oscar Sunday, increasing just by 1.2%. However, since 2021, there has been a consistent increase in distracted driving on Oscar Sunday. 2022 saw a 4.4% rise and 2023 experienced the biggest jump in distraction on Oscar Sunday, 6.5%. In 2023, drivers spent 2 minutes and 16 seconds on their phone per hour, an 8-second increase from the surrounding days. 

The spike in distracted driving on Oscar Sunday has fatal consequences. We estimate this rise in distracted driving has caused more than 600 additional crashes, 350 injuries, 3 fatalities, and about $25.1 million in economic damage over the past four years on Oscar Sunday.

Compared to other Sundays, distracted driving during Oscar Sunday in 2023 rose during the red carpet at the beginning of the event at 6:30 p.m. and when Best Picture was announced at the end of the broadcast. At 11:00 p.m., around the time Best Picture was announced, screen interaction was 7.1% higher than other Sundays, a 10-second difference. This elevated level of distraction is likely due to the number of notifications sent to announce Best Picture as well as the conversations around it. 

Celebrate Safely

As the Oscars light up screens with the celebration of film, it’s crucial to remember the hidden dangers on our roads during such high-profile events. The Oscars, much like the Super Bowl, becomes more than just a show. As the data shows, they’re transformed into a shared national experience, forcing drivers to split their attention between the road and their phones.