Study shows dangers of distracted driving

CSAIL spin-off Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT) found that over half the crashes in the study involved phone distraction.
CSAIL spin-off Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT) found that over half the crashes in the study involved phone distraction.

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Using mobile data, CSAIL spinoff Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT) released a new study on the dangers of distracted driving that found that phone distraction occurred in the majority (52 percent) of all crashes.

CMT’s apps give users insight and tangible information into their habits and actions related to driving and safety. They measure driving behavior in six categories, namely, time of driving, phone use, speeding, acceleration, braking, and cornering.

"Distracted driving due to smartphone use is intuitively blamed for the increase in road crashes and claims," says CSAIL researcher Hari Balakrishnan, who serves as Chief Technology Officer of CMT. "What's less intuitive is that smartphones hold the solution to the problem they created. Drivers now have access to tools that analyze their driving and achieve real behavioral change through immediate and ongoing feedback."

Key points from the study include:

* Distracted driving occurred in 52 percent of trips ending in crashes.

* Distraction time was 135 seconds (for crashes).
* Phone distraction happened for two minutes or more on 20 percent of drives with distraction, with 29 percent exceeding 56 miles per hour.

* The worst 10 percent of distracted drivers are 2.3 times more likely to be in a crash than the average driver, and 5.8 times more likely than the best 10 percent of distracted drivers. 


The apps are based on CMT’s DriveWell solution, which automatically records phone sensor data during a drive.

The team has witnessed a positive change in course when users receive feedback on their driving habits from the apps: with just 30 days of usage, phone distraction goes down by 35 percent (40 percent by day 60), and speeding and sharp braking by 20 percent.

"This data makes it clear that distracted driving is one of the most urgent public safety problems facing our communities today," says Balakrishnan. "With April being Distracted Driving Awareness Month, it's important to take a critical look at how we can most effectively reduce the danger that drivers face. By harnessing the very technology that threatens driver safety, and using it to help drivers understand and improve their behavior, we're making the world safer by the day."