Here is some of the latest research on distracted driving, with the focus on cell phone use and text messaging.
Cortical processing during smartphone text messaging
W. Tatum, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla. Study of 129 volunteers via video-EEG monitoring. June 2016.
Quote: Discovery of a “texting rhythm” in brain waves: “There is now a biological reason why people shouldn’t text and drive — texting can change brain waves.”
Adults Aged 65 and Older Use Potentially Distracting Electronic Devices While Driving
E. Vernon, G. Babulal, D. Head, School of Medicine in St. Louis. Survey of elderly drivers. June 2015.
Quote: “Age significantly predicted cellular telephone use while driving and owning a smartphone, with younger age linked to both cellular telephone use and smartphone ownership.”
Prevalence of Environmental Factors and Driver Behaviors in Teen Driver Crashes
C. Carney, D. McGehee, K. Harland, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Study of in-vehicle event recorder data from teen crashes. March 2015.
Quote: “Cell phone use was more common in road departure crashes and contributed to significantly longer reaction times … (and was) much more prevalent in the current study than in official statistics based on police reports.”
Effects of texting on driving performance in a driving simulator: The influence of driver age
G. Rumschlag, T. Palumboa, A. Martin, Wayne State University. Simulator study of 50 “drivers.” October 2014.
Quote: “Cell phone texting during simulated driving increased the frequency and severity of lane excursions (violations). … For (self-described) highly skilled texters, the effects of texting on driving are actually worse for older drivers.”
Impact of Texting Laws on Motor Vehicular Fatalities in the United States
A. O. Ferdinand, N. Menachemi, University of Alabama at Birmingham. Fatality Analysis Reporting System analysis. August 2014.
Quote: “Texting-while-driving bans were most effective for reducing traffic-related fatalities among young individuals (but) handheld bans appear to be most effective for adults.” Secondary enforcement laws did not result in “significant reductions in traffic fatalities.”
The Economic and Societal Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes
L.J. Blincoe, T.R. Miller, E. Zaloshnja, B.A. Lawrence. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Data study. May 2014.
Quote: “Crashes involving a distracted driver … cost the nation $46 billion in 2010, an average cost of $148 for every person in the U.S. Including lost quality of life, these crashes were responsible for $129 billion of the overall societal harm caused by motor vehicle crashes.”
Social Norms and Risk Perception: Predictors of Distracted Driving Behavior Among Novice Adolescent Drivers
P. Carter, C. Bingham, J. Zakrajsek … University of Michigan School of Medicine. Nationwide phone survey of 403 adolescents and their parents. May 2014.
Quote: “92% of adolescents reported regularly engaging in distracted driving behavior. Adolescents engaged frequently in texting/cell phone behaviors, with 48% reporting texting and 68% reporting talking on a telephone at least once a trip.”
Impact of Michigan’s Text Messaging Restriction on Motor Vehicle Crashes
J. Ehsani, C. Bingham, E. Ionides, D. Childers, Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Study of crash rates and trends for drivers in Michigan, 2005–2012. May 2014.
Quote: “We hypothesized that the introduction of the texting restriction for all drivers would be followed by a reduction in crashes of all severities. (But) statistically significant increases in crash rates and trends in fatal/disabling injury crashes and nondisabling injury crashes and decreases in possible injury/PDO crashes were observed. … The relationship between texting restrictions and crashes is complex.”
Distracted Driving and Risk of Crashes Among Novice and Experienced Drivers
S. Klauer, F. Guo, B. Simons-Morton, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. In-vehicle tracking of new and veteran drivers. January 2014.
Quote: “Novice drivers engaged in secondary tasks more frequently over time … possibly because of increased confidence in driving… Dialing and texting (is a) significant risk factor, particularly among novice drivers.”
Fatalities of Pedestrians, Bicycle Riders and Motorists Due to Distracted Driving Motor Vehicle Crashes
J. Stimpson, F. Wilson, R. Muelleman, University of Nebraska Medical Center. Analysis of U.S. fatalities, 2005-2010. November 2013.
Quote: “Distracted drivers are the cause of an increasing share of fatalities found among pedestrians and bicycle riders. … 18.6% of the distracted driving-related crashes were cell phone-related.”
“The Effects of a Production Level ‘Voice-Command’ Interface on Driver Behavior”
B. Reimer, B. Mehler, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Road tests with 60 drivers. November 2013.
Quote: “Depending on the task assessed … both positive features and concerns associated with the use of the voice interface were identified. … (There was) a high level of visual demand/engagement during selected tasks.” Read more about the MIT study.
Impact of Hand-Held and Hands-Free Cell Phone Use on Driving Performance
G. Fitch, S. Soccolich, F. Guo, etc., Virginia Tech Transportation Institute for U.S. Department of Transportation. “Naturalistic driving study” backed by cell phone records. April 2013.
Quote: “Talking on a cell phone, of any type, was not associated with an increased safety-critical event risk. … Visual-manual subtasks (such as dialing) performed on a handheld cell phone were associated with an increased (crash) risk … and significantly increased the percentage of time drivers took their eyes off the forward roadway. … About half of the hands-free cell phone interactions involved visual-manual subtask.”
Crashes Involving Cell Phones: Challenges of Collecting and Reporting Reliable Crash Data
National Safety Council. Comparison of crash reports to data in Fatal Analysis Reporting System. May 2013.
Quote: “There is strong evidence to support that underreporting of driver cell phone use in crashes is resulting in a substantial underestimation of the magnitude of this public safety threat. … There is no reliable method to accurately determine how many crashes involve cell phone use; therefore, it is impossible to know the true scope of the problem.”
Texting Bans and Fatal Accidents on Roadways: Do They Work?
R. Abouk, S. Adams, University of Wisconsin. Analysis using fatality data. April 2013.
Quote: “Bans appear moderately successful at reducing single-vehicle, single-occupant accidents if bans are universally applied and enforced as a primary offense. Bans enforced as secondary offenses, however, have at best no effect on accidents. This is suggestive of drivers reacting to the announcement of the legislation only to return to old habits.”
Teens and Technology 2013
Mary Madden, Amanda Lenhart, etc. Pew Internet Project. Phone survey of 802 teens and parents. March 2013.
Quote: “Smartphone adoption among American teens has increased substantially and mobile access to the internet is pervasive. … Among teen smartphone owners, half are ‘cell-mostly’ Internet users.”
Pedestrian Injuries Due to Mobile Phone Use in Public Places
J. Nasar, D. Troyer. Ohio State University and DOT. Study of emergency room injuries, 2004-2010, nationwide. August 2013.
Quote: “Mobile-phone related injuries among pedestrians (paralleled or exceeded) the increase in injuries for drivers. … Using a mobile phone while walking puts pedestrians at risk of accident, injury or death.”
Mobile Device Use While Driving: U.S. and 7 European Countries
Rebecca Naumann, Ann Dellinger. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. European and U.S. surveys (2011). March 2013.
Quote: “More than two-thirds of U.S. adult drivers aged reported they had talked on their cell phone while driving at least once in the past 30 days. (In European countries), percentages ranged from 20 percent to 60 percent.”
Is Your Baby Safe on the Road?
American Baby and Safe Kids Worldwide. Survey of 2,396 female drivers with a child under age 2. January 2013.
Quote: “78% of (surveyed) moms talk on the phone while driving with their kids. … 26% text or check email. … Nearly 10% of new moms have been in a crash while driving with their baby — nearly three times higher than the rate among the general population.”
Pedestrian Safety Survey
Ketchum Global Research & Analytics for Liberty Mutual Insurance. Phone survey of 1,004 adults. June 2013.
Quote: “60 percent of pedestrians walk while texting, emailing, talking on the phone, or listening to music despite 70 percent considering those behaviors to be dangerous. … A 2011 report (found) 1,152 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms after being injured while walking and using a cell phone or some other electronic device.”
Observational Study of Cell Phone and Texting Use Among California Drivers 2012
Ewald & Wasserman for Safe Transportation Research and Education Center UC Berkeley. 5,664 vehicle observations from 129 sites. November 2012.
Quote: “The percentage of distracted driving by electronic devices observed increased to 6.2% in 2012 from 4.2% in 2011. … The age group of 16-24-year-olds had a significantly higher rate of distracted driving (11.4 percent) compared with older age groups.”
Teen Driver Distraction Study
University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and Toyota Collaborative Safety Research Center. National phone survey of of 2,610 teen drivers and 2,934 parents. November 2012.
Quote: “Parents who engage in distracting behaviors more frequently have teens who engage in distracting behaviors. … Teens read or send text messages once a trip 26 times more often than their parents think they do.”
The Influence of Music on Mental Effort and Driving Performance
A. Ünal, L. Steg, K. Epstude. University of Groningen, The Netherlands. Driving simulations with loud music. September 2012
Quote: “Listening to music increased mental effort while driving (but) drivers who listened to music performed as well as the drivers who did not. … Mental effort might mediate the effect of music on driving performance.” (Read more about the driving study.)
Effects of Electronic Billboards on Driver Distraction
Tania Dukic, Christer Ahlstrom, etc. Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute. (Published in the Traffic Injury Prevention journal.) Study of 41 volunteer drivers. October 2012.
Quote: “Drivers had a significantly longer dwell time, a greater number of fixations and longer maximum fixation duration when driving past an electronic billboard compared to other signs on the same road stretches. Whether the electronic billboards … constitute a traffic safety hazard cannot be answered conclusively based on the present data.”
Distracted driving Among Newly Licensed Teens
A. Goodwin, R. Foss, S. Harrell, N. O’Brien, UNC Highway Safety Research Center/AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Video recorders in family vehicles. March 2012.
Quote: “Electronic device use and other distracted driving behaviors were strongly associated with (teens’) looking away from the roadway. … Females were twice as likely as males to be using an electronic device.”
Young Drivers Report the Highest-Level Phone Involvement in Crash or Near Crash Incidences
J. Tison, N. Chaudhary, L. Cosgrove, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. National phone survey on distracted driving attitudes and behaviors. December 2011.
Quote: “Only about 1 out of 5 young drivers think that texting makes no difference to their driving performance. … 68 percent of young drivers 18 to 20 are willing to answer incoming phone calls on some, most, or all driving trips.”
Impact of Variations in Short-Term Memory Demands on Drivers’ Visual Attention and Driving Performance
B. Reimer, B. Mehler, Y. Wang, J.F. Coughlin, J.F. MIT field study. February 2012.
Quote: “Drivers’ awareness of vehicle surroundings is incrementally impacted by increases in cognitive demand (such as thinking about unrelated problems).” (article)
Two Hands Better Than One
S. Jamson, Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds (U.K.). Driving simulator tests of one-handed drivers. Funded by Esure. April 2012.
Quote: “(Driver) reaction times increased by 44 per cent when eating behind the wheel (22 percent while drinking). … Participants made the most corrections to their steering when talking on a mobile-device.”
High School Students Improve Motor Vehicle-related Health Behaviors
Centers for Disease Control: 2011 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. 15,000 high school students surveyed in 43 states. 2011.
Quote: “The use of technology among youth has resulted in new risks; specifically, 1 in 3 high school students had texted or e-mailed while driving … during the past 30 days.”
Surveillance to Inform Distracted Driving Policy: A Survey of College Students
Training, Research and Education for Driving Safety unit, UC San Diego. Self-selected online survey of college students (18-25) in San Diego County. Late 2011.
Quote: “Distracted driving is a highly prevalent behavior in college students, who have higher confidence in their own driving skills and ability to multitask than they have in their colleagues. … The higher the witnessing of distracted driving in others, the more likely the student was to engage in distracted driving.”
Cognitive Distraction While Multitasking in the Automobile
D. Strayer, J. Watson, F. Drews. University of Utah Applied Cognition Lab. Driving simulator study. February 2011.
Quote: “Cell phone use (by a driver) significantly increases the risk of a motor-vehicle accident. … Passenger conversations do not. … Cell phone use induces a form of inattention blindness. … Impairments can be as profound as (driving) while at the legal limit of alcohol.”
Americans and Text Messaging
A. Smith. Pew Research Center. National phone survey of adults. September 2011.
“Cell owners between the ages of 18 and 24 exchange an average of 109.5 messages on a normal day. … Overall, the survey found that both text messaging and phone calling on cell phones have leveled off for the adult population as a whole. … (When asked how they prefer to be contacted on their cell phones), heavy text users were much more likely to prefer texting to talking.”
- Read more about distracted driving safety research
Note: Inclusion on this list does not indicate HandsFreeInfo endorsement of any distracted driving study’s conclusions or methodology. Commercial sponsorships may or may not affect research results. Some special interests-backed studies deliberately excluded from this list. Surveys conducted online are not statistically valid.