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Safety & Accident

Naturalistic Study Refines Understanding of Distracted Driving Behavior

September 29, 2010

SAN DIEGO - DriveCam Inc. announced the results of a study to understand cell phone distraction in commercial trucks and buses. Funded by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) and conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), this naturalistic study went further than any study previously undertaken, as it used a subset of DriveCam's database of driving events (derived from over 2 billion miles of monitored driving) to study the prevalence of cell phone distraction in conjunction with crashes and near-crashes.

"Distracted driving is a major problem on our nation's roads and has captured the attention of policymakers, regulators and the media"

The study revealed several key findings:

  • Any cell phone activity that involves using one's hands (texting/e-mailing/dialing/accessing the Internet) while driving significantly increased the odds of involvement in a crash/near crash.
  • Talking/listening on a hands-free or hand-held cell phone while driving did not significantly affect the odds of involvement in a crash/near crash. In fact, the data shows that talking/listening on a hands-free cell phone while driving had a "protective effect."
  • The existence of a state cell phone law did not significantly impact drivers' likelihood of using their cell phone while driving, compared to usage in a state that did not have a law prohibiting cell phone use. Consistent law enforcement is an important element in ensuring the laws are obeyed.
  • A driver's odds of using a cell phone while driving were 17 percent less likely under a fleet cell phone policy compared to a no fleet cell phone policy.

A key part of the study was the use of data from the videos associated with risky driving events; video is the optimal way to understand distracted driving.

This innovative study collected data from over 13,000 trucks and buses and included a total of 1,085 crashes, 8,375 near crashes, 30,661 crash-relevant conflicts and 211,711 baselines (normative driving used in comparison with the safety events). This study provided a critical piece of information on driver distraction and the results were consistent with another FMCSA-funded study conducted by the VTTI (Olson et al., 2009).

"Distracted driving is a major problem on our nation's roads and has captured the attention of policymakers, regulators and the media," commented DriveCam CEO, Brandon Nixon. "By working with VTTI, we were able to provide information on the scope of cell phone use during valid safety events and crashes, and provide FMCSA with descriptive data on the adverse consequences of cell phone use while driving. It is video that helps tell the story and we are excited that FMCSA understands the importance of combining video with data analytics to capture and confirm what the driver is doing behind the wheel."

Last year, DriveCam and VTTI teamed on an FMCSA-funded study to evaluate the efficacy of the DriveCam Program. Participants in the program saw upwards of 52-percent reduction in risky driving events during the study.

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