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Study: The Frequency and Severity of Crashes Involving Distracted Driving

The Risk Institute’s Distracted Driving Initiative at The Ohio State University is a nationwide collaborative effort among dozens of companies, organizations and government entities focused on how distracted driving behaviors can be predicted and curbed.

eDriving is one of the companies involved in the collaboration, and Jim Noble, eDriving’s Vice President of Risk Engineering, leads the Distracted Driving Initiative’s technology pillar.

Recently, researchers at the Distracted Driving Initiative conducted a study to compare the frequency and severity of crashes involving distracted driving to those not involving distracted driving.

Using a comprehensive dataset with 1.4 million crash records in Ohio for the period 2013-2017, researchers Zhenhua Chen, Ph.D. and Youngbin Lym studied the relationships between road environments and the frequency and severity of vehicle crashes caused by distracted driving.

The objective of the research was to improve our understanding of the influence of road environment on roadway safety in terms of the frequency and severity of vehicle crashes caused by driving distracted from a post-collision perspective. Specifically, the following research questions were addressed:

  1. How do vehicle crashes caused by distracted driving vary temporally and spatially in Ohio?
  2. How does the road environment (e.g. types of intersections, number of lanes, road conditions, etc.) influence the frequency and severity of vehicle crashes caused by distracted driving?
  3. How does the frequency and severity of vehicle crashes caused by distracted driving vary by major crash types (e.g. rear-end, fixed object and angle)?
  4. How does the influence of road environment on the frequency and severity of a vehicle crash vary between distraction-related crashes and non-distraction related crashes?

The study revealed that the relative frequency of crashes caused by distracted driving tends to show different characteristics as compared to non-distracted driving-related crashes. In addition, distracted driving-related crashes tend to be more severe than non-distracted driving crashes in certain road environments. For instance, vehicle crashes caused by distracted driving were found to be more severe if the collision occurred at work zones or on interstate highways. In addition, roundabouts were found to have mixed effects on crash severities.

Key study findings included: 

  • Although distracted driving tends to be associated with fewer crashes compared to non-distracted driving counterparts in general, those that involve injuries (including possible injury, evident injury and severe injury) are more likely to be caused by distracted driving than non-distracted driving.
  • In terms of the comparison by vehicle crash types, 40 percent of distracted driving-related vehicle crashes during the period 2013-2017 were rear-end crash types. In addition, vehicle crashes caused by distracted driving are relatively high for fixed object and angle crash types.
  • The 15-29 age group appears to be more likely to drive distracted than other age groups.
  • The probability of a crash involving a higher level of severity tends to be 49.4 percent higher for distracted driving-related crashes on interstate highways than other road types.
  • The odds of vehicle crashes that involve a death rather than a severe injury tend to be 5.3 times and 10.4 times greater for rear-end and angle crash types, respectively, if occurred at work zone and caused by distracted driving.

“This issue is of both local and national interest,” said Zhenhua Chen. “Essentially, the purpose of our work is to make a difference on policymaking: how can we improve our investment strategies, how can we allocate resources effectively and how can we improve our road environment and reduce the risk of this kind of collision?”

View full study

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1ytcDrjVCS9FGvagDLR7Ko4kmiNRaLJhS?usp=sharing