Telematics Data Insights Show Distracted Driving Behavior at the Most Riskiest Levels

Unfortunately, cell phone use in cars is still one of the biggest causes of distracted driving, despite all its convenience. A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) revealed that distracted driving due to cellphone interactions and other behaviors were up 57% over the prior survey. While surveys show the majority of drivers are concerned about safety on the road and even admit to being distracted behind the wheel, we conducted an in-depth research analysis of IMS’ telematics driving data to uncover new valuable insights to help highlight the dangers of distracted driving behavior.

IMS’ driving insights have uncovered that not only is driver distraction on the increase, but drivers are taking the highest levels of distracted driving risk when driving distracted (see Figure 1). Even with the abundance of studies that demonstrate the dangers, drivers continue to be aware of distracted driving as a growing epidemic, but are taking highly dangerous risks that include typing messages as well as taking and placing phone calls while driving.

Fig. 1. Distraction Risk Levels Based on Driving Behavior

Drivers are aware that apart from driving distractions that can occur inside the car, including conversations, eating or interacting with the built-in car infotainment and navigation system, the increasing use of smartphones while driving is one of the biggest causes of the rise in driver distraction and road fatalities. Distracted driving has become a growing societal challenge, even displacing impaired driving as the number one cause of deaths. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of distracted driving fatalities continues to increase year-over-year to 3,477 fatalities in their latest report. Last year alone, the Ontario Provincial Police said there were almost 5.5 times more collisions due to distracted driving compared to drinking and driving.

So How Serious Has Distracted Driving Behavior Really Become, Despite the Awareness of All the Risks?

IMS, a market leader in insurance telematics and connected car solutions had our team of data scientists who are passionate about helping protect drivers and eliminate dangerous driving behaviors behind the wheel, set out to answer this question using data and rigorous analysis. They analyzed aggregate driving behavior data collected across our various connected car and telematics programs enabling a statistically significant sample size of over 5 trillion data points, 7 billion minutes of driving and 4 billion km of driving for analysis.

Our comprehensive Distracted Driving Insights Report covering both idling and in-motion distracted driving events revealed that in spite of the risks and fatal consequences associated with distracted driving, drivers continue taking very serious risks at the highest levels of behavioral distraction. 53% of all collected and aggregated trips contained at least one distracted driving event. Driver Distraction events while idling (such as at a stop sign or red light) occurred 39% of the time whereas distraction events while the vehicle was in motion occurred 36% of the time. Most importantly, while some distractions may be unavoidable, our data shows that these distraction occurrences are not biased towards either a moving or an idling event. Many trips had both idling and moving distraction events within the same trip.

To illustrate and further support this insight, it is best viewed as a Venn diagram with two circles (Figure 2), where the left circle represents distracted driving events only while idling (17%) and the right circle represents distracted driving events only while moving (14%). Some had distracted driving events while both idling and moving during the same trip. Therefore, some drivers belong in both circles (22%). When adding all three circles (17% + 14% + 22%), the total is 53%, which represents all of the trips with distracted driving events.

Fig. 2. Distracted Driving Events Venn Diagram

Although smartphones have made it easy for us to stay connected, the data shows they also divert attention from the road and puts drivers at risk of unsafe driving. As we’ve discovered, the behaviors associated with distracted driving are occurring at the highest levels of distraction and risk levels. Here are some key facts from our research:

Ultimately, in an effort to combat this, new technologies such as telematics and connected car programs are providing the first working solutions to deter the extent and seriousness of distracted driving behavior. Such programs, including insurance telematics programs, have the ability to detect distracted driving behaviors, including time, duration and distraction risk level while driving and have been largely effective in changing driving behavior. Additionally, by also providing real-time coaching to drivers and offering incentives, including rewards, contests and insurance discounts, telematics and connected car programs can help alter and deter distracted driving behavior.

Join us to observe Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April, originally introduced to draw attention to the growing instances of this epidemic and help eliminate preventable deaths caused by distracted driving.