TREDS Adult Cell Phone Survey
April 10, 2013
What is distracted driving: Distracted driving (DD) occurs when the driver has their eyes, ears, hands or attention away from the road. Distractions include phones, radios, GPS devices, passengers, computers, and other items such as food.
Why do we care: DD is associated with an increased crash risk. Our best estimates are that talking on a phone and driving increases the crash risk 2-4 fold, with no difference between hands-free and handheld. Texting is estimated to increase the risk up to 16 fold. These rates are similar to driving under the influence of alcohol (a BAC of .08 is a 4 fold increase). There were about 3,300 deaths and 400,000 injuries nationwide in 2011 due to collisions involving at least one distracted driver. The use of cell phones while driving is currently the leading cause of driver distraction crashes in California.
What is the law: Across the country, states have implemented bans on phones and texting. 10 states have banned handheld phones, including California. California has also banned any and all texting, any phone use for novice drivers, and any phone use by school bus drivers.
Our survey: With support from Allstate Insurance Company, the Adult Cell Phone Survey, was conducted February 8, 2013 through March 31, 2013, and focused on the driving habits of San Diego County residents, ages 30 to 64. It used the anonymous, online questionnaire to examine drivers’ attitudes about cell-phone use and to quantify the amount of time that respondents use cell phones to text or call others while on the road. 715 participants completed the survey; 75 percent female, two thirds married; average age was 46 years old. 42 percent had children less than 21 years living at home. 83 percent had a smart phone. 90 percent are driving 6 or more days a week, 1 or more hours a day. 74 percent said their driving was better than others on the road.
Distracted driving behaviors:
Overall, any phone use while driving occurred in 82 percent of participants.
- Handheld phoning and driving was reported by 56 percent of participants.
- Of those who have hands-free capabilities, 96 percent reported hands-free driving.
- The more time people spent on the road, the more likely they were to drive distracted.
- Of the 261 respondents with children less than 11 years in the car, 65 percent drove talking on a cellphone and 36 percent texted, though the majority rarely.
- Of the 193 respondents with children 12-17 years in the car, 63 percent used a phone while driving and 31 percent texted, though again the majority (29 percent) rarely.
- There were higher rates of cellphone use while driving in the adults with the younger children, less than 11 years, in the car.
- 31 percent of employees felt obliged to take a work related call while driving.
- Respondents who felt obliged to take work related calls were more likely to use both handheld and hands-free phones, and to text as well.
- Only 27 percent of respondents knew that speaking on a phone, hands-free or handheld, was the same as driving with a BAC of .08!
- The majority of people rated themselves as being capable of driving while talking on a cellphone, with men rating themselves higher than women. However the vast majority didn’t think they could safely text and drive, 92 percent.
Citations and collisions:
- 5.6 percent of participants had received at least one citation for talking on a handheld phone while driving. 40 percent of those said they stopped talking handheld because of the citation.
- Less than 1 percent (0.3 percent, n=2) received a citation for texting while driving.
- 41 percent reported they were unlikely to receive a citation for talking handheld.
- 108 (15.1 percent) participants reported experiencing a collision caused by at least one distracted driving behavior. The number one cause was due to cellphone related distractions (1/3) followed by speaking to a passenger or reaching for an object.
What are the implications:
- Respondents are underestimating the dangers of DD, and overrating their own capabilities, and engaging in dangerous behaviors.
- Adults 30-64 years drive distracted less than the college and university students who participated in our survey one year ago. For example, 50 percent of those students said they were texting while driving full speed on the freeway, while only 22 percent of adults do this. However, these adult participants are still engaged in the behavior, and often with children in the car.
- DD with children puts adults and their kids in danger, as well as models a very dangerous behavior. We know from smoking, where the children of smokers were more likely to start smoking, that parents have a large influence on the behavior of their children.
What can you do:
- Phone use is like an addiction: people know it is dangerous, but can’t resist the behavior. Before starting a trip, remove the phone from temptation: turn it off, put it on airplane mode, or get an ‘app’ that blocks calls during driving.
- It is particularly important to not engage in DD with children in the car.
- Speak to employers about the need to be safe behind the wheel, and encourage the development of a ‘no cell phone use while driving’ policy if one does not exist.
- Leave a message on your personal and work phones that you don’t take calls while driving.
- Know the law. Only 32 percent of respondents felt comfortable in their knowledge of cell phone laws.