Blog | Behavior Change

Phone Distraction Occurred in 41% of Daytime Drives in 2019

Analysis from CMT's new report, "The Harsh Realities of Phone Distraction."
November 12, 2020

Phone distraction while driving is an understudied, underreported, and misunderstood disaster occurring right now. It costs hundreds of lives and millions of dollars each year, and it’s getting worse. 

States across the country have begun to address phone use while driving with piecemeal changes to laws and enforcement, but phone distraction is still on the rise. Our data shows that across the U.S., 41% of daytime trips involve some level of phone distraction. This represents a 15% growth from the previous year. At this rate, according to our analysis, 4,000 people per year will lose their lives from smartphone distraction-related crashes by 2025. 

After studying this problem for months, today we’re launching a new report: “The Harsh Realities of Phone Distraction,” a data-driven analysis by the actuarial, data science, and market research teams at CMT. You can download it here.

The first “harsh reality” of distracted driving is that it is still misunderstood and underestimated. Too often, the available data is mislabeled; it’s hard for officers on the scene of a crash to assess phone use as a cause without the driver offering the information willingly. Therefore volumes of smartphone distraction related crashes are described as “distraction related.” 

Second, government safety agencies are ill-equipped to address this problem through policy and regulation because of a lack of reliable data on its nature and magnitude; national levels of phone distraction are currently measured by people standing at intersections holding clipboards. 

Additionally, hands-free phone use laws enforcement remains inconsistent and difficult to implement because the offense can be difficult to observe. Tickets are very rare, averaging only 700 fines per year per 100,000 licensed drivers in 2018.

To solve the problem, the authorities will first need to be able to quantify it accurately; a technological solution to solve a problem caused by technology. Once a clearer picture of the hazard is created, there is a great opportunity to create public-private partnerships to help create meaningful behavior change in drivers.

This report is the most thorough investigation of the nature, evolution, consequences, and solution to phone distraction. It is aimed at better informing policy makers, providing access to critical information unavailable to road safety experts and proposing better tools to analyze distracted driving. Simply click here to access the download form.