Distracted drivers pose risk to motorists across the country. However, a new study released by traffic analytics firm Zendrive revealed Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of distracted driving nationally.
The research firm uses smartphone sensors to measure driver behavior. With this technology, the firm gathered data from 3.1 million drivers covering some 5.6 billion miles over 570 million trips over the course of three months from December 2016 to February 2017. What they discovered was that not only are there a lot of distracted drivers, but that most drivers are in fact distracted. In 88 percent of the trips examined, drivers were using their phones.
That tells us we are only seeing a snapshot of distraction too because it doesn't account for other attention hogs, like fiddling with the radio, eating or interacting with passengers. Researchers also rated each state by which had the most distracted drivers. Oklahoma ranked No. 46 (with 50 being the most distracted and 1 being the least).
The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office reported that in 2014, there were 637 people injured and 14 killed directly as a result of distracted driving. And of course, those are only the cases about which we know. It's tough to track distracted driving, the way we do with alcohol impairment or speed. Blood-alcohol levels can be easily ascertained shortly after a crash. Determining speed is often a matter of physics for traffic accident reconstructionists. Distraction, however, is another matter.
Authorities may be able to glean data from cell phone companies or towers to determine when approximately a person was on the phone in relation to a crash. But beyond that, it's often up to the at-fault driver to admit he or she was distracted - and that doesn't always happen, even if they survive.
Oklahoma officials report between 2010 and 2014, there were an estimated 9,000 crashes involving drivers distracted by electronic devices. Within those cases, there were 61 fatalities. In this case, "electronic device" is taken to mean cell phones, pagers, navigation devices or Palm Pilots. However, almost all electronic devices used by drivers at this point are smartphones, which combine all these features into a single device.
Within these incidents, drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 were the most at-risk, while drivers 25 to 34 also had a disproportionate number of distracted driving accidents.
Meanwhile, the Zendrive study has been touted as the largest distracted driving analysis ever conducted. By comparison, the Federal Highway Administration queried some 300,000 people about their distracted driving habits back in 2009. Zendrive looked at the driving habits of millions of motorists over billions of miles traveled. Essentially, only 12 percent of all trips analyzed were made with zero phone use.
For study purposes, "phone use" is defined as a driver handling a phone for a certain period of time for purposes of talking, texting or navigating. Study authors declined to delve into the various purposes or apps, citing privacy concerns, but the point is it affects so many drivers. Although the majority in this research were operating passenger cars, there were some commercial drivers as well, though it's not specified how many. The company said it is able to differentiate between phone use of drivers and passengers based on where someone is seated and from what side of the vehicle they get out.