The frequency and severity of crashes involving distracted driving has been compared to those not involving distracted driving in a new study carried out by the Risk Institute Distracted Driving Initiative at Ohio State University.

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

The study reveals that the relative frequency of crashes caused by distracted driving tends to be much higher than 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 include:

  • 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-to-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-to-end and angle crash types, respectively, if occurred at work zone and caused by distracted driving.

“Overall, our study suggests that the influences of road environments on vehicle crashes measured in terms of frequency and severity are different between distracted driving and non-distracted driving related crashes,” stated the study conclusion. “This implies that there is a need to improve traffic safety and road management. For instance, given that crashes caused by distracted driving could be more severe in certain road environments, such as work zones and urban roads, a transportation safety planner or a policymaker who has an objective to reduce the traffic collisions and to improve traffic safety must consider implementation of informative traffic signs and safety regulations for distracted driving at these specific areas.”