11% of Drivers Distracted, Study Finds

North America News - August 2017

A total of 11% of drivers are distracted behind the wheel, with cell phones representing the majority of distractions, according to a newly updated study conducted in Ohio’s Mahoning Valley.

The research findings, released by the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments in Youngstown, Ohio, are based on data gathered in the field by staff. Two staff members were stationed for two hours at 12 different Mahoning Valley locations known for moderate to heavy traffic. The ongoing study, which began in October 2015, relies on observational methodology rather than self-reported survey results.

Among the observable distractions, use of a handheld phone — either up to the driver’s ear or held out in front — is the most common (53%). Use of a device with one hand while not focused on the road (32%) comes in second, followed by eating or drinking while driving (12%). Such distractions as searching the car, reading (including maps) and having a dog on the driver’s lap are bundled into a separate category known as “other” (4%).

Drivers in the 26-40 age group are at the highest risk for driving distracted, the study found. A total of 16% of the drivers in this age group were judged as distracted.

Staff members recording the data designate each observed driver into one of four age groups and indicate gender. Of course, this aspect of the study has its limits; assessing a driver’s age based on a brief glance at a moving vehicle is subject to mistakes. The age groups are 16-25, 26-40, 41-60, and 60 and over.

The goal of the study is to provide results to local safety groups and communities to assist with safety outreach efforts. Eastgate Regional Council of Governments periodically releases fact sheets with updated information to augment the initial study summary released in May 2016.

To download the newly released fact sheets, which include 2017 data from four new locations, click here.

To download the initial study released in May 2016, click here.

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