Drivers Distracted More Than Half the Time

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Drivers engage in some type of distracting activity more than 50 percent of the time they are driving, according to Virginia Tech Transportation Institute research, which also found drivers increase their crash risk nearly tenfold when they get behind the wheel while observably angry, sad, crying, or emotionally agitated.

“These findings are important because we see a younger population of drivers, particularly teens, who are more prone to engaging in distracting activities while driving,” said Dingus, lead author of the study and director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

The research article, which appeared in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also reported that drivers more than double their crash risk when they choose to engage in distracting activities that require them to take their eyes off the road, such as using a handheld cell phone, reading or writing, or using touchscreen menus on a vehicle instrument pane.

Researchers derived results from the Second Strategic Highway Research Program Naturalistic Driving Study, the largest light-vehicle naturalistic driving study ever conducted with more than 3,500 participants across six data collection sites in the United States. Drivers in the study participated between one and two years each, resulting in more than 35 million miles of continuous naturalistic driving data.

“All of these findings are especially important as we work with policymakers, educators, drivers themselves, law enforcement officials, and vehicle designers to define and help mitigate driver risks,” Dingus said.

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