Distracted Driving Research
The following is a limited bibliography of research reports concerning distracted driving. It is meant to provide a brief introduction to the current state of research on the issue. The U.S. Department of Transportation does not endorse the research listed here, nor does non-DOT research represent the official position of DOT, its agencies, or its employees.
On December 8, 2011, NHTSA released a new measure of fatalities related to distracted driving, called “distraction-affected crashes.” NHTSA’s adoption of the new “distraction-affected crash” measure for the 2010 FARS data is one step in a continuing effort to focus on driver distraction and separate it from other issues. The new measure is designed to focus more narrowly on crashes in which a driver was most likely to have been distracted. NHTSA will continue to look for improved data sources.
"Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving," NHTSA 2012
This policy document from NHTSA contains distracted driving statistics and outlines concrete steps stakeholders around the country can take to reduce the risk posed by distracted driving.
"Teen Distracted Driving Data," NHTSA 2014
This fact sheet includes data for teens and distracted driving in 2013.
"Distracted Driving 2013," NHTSA 2015
This research note from NHTSA's National Center for Statistics and Analysis discusses distracted driving statistics from 2013. The analysis was based on a data set of known distraction affected deaths in motor vehicle crashes at the time of publication.
"Distracted Driving 2012," NHTSA 2014
This research note from NHTSA's National Center for Statistics and Analysis discusses distracted driving statistics from 2012. The analysis was based on a data set of known distraction affected deaths in motor vehicle crashes at the time of publication.
"Distracted Driving 2011," NHTSA 2013
This research note from NHTSA's National Center for Statistics and Analysis discusses distracted driving statistics from 2011. The analysis was based on a data set of known distraction affected deaths in motor vehicle crashes at the time of publication.
Data on Electronic Device Use While Driving
"Driver Electronic Device Use in 2014," NHTSA 2015
The percentage of drivers text-messaging or visibly manipulating handheld devices increased from 1.7 percent in 2013 to 2.2 percent in 2014; this was a statistically significant increase. Driver handheld cell phone use decreased from 4.6 percent in 2013 to 4.3 percent in 2014; however, this was not a statistically significant decrease. These results are from the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), which provides the only nationwide probability-based observed data on driver electronic device use in the United States. The NOPUS is conducted annually by the National Center for Statistics and Analysis of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
"Distracted Driving Among Newly Licensed Teens," AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety 2012
Electronic device use and other distracted driving behaviors were strongly associated with (teens’) looking away from the roadway. Females were twice as likely as males to be using an electronic device.
"Americans and Text Messaging," Pew Research Center 2011
Cell owners between the ages of 18 and 24 exchange an average of 109.5 messages on a normal day. Overall, the survey found that both text messaging and phone calling on cell phones have leveled off for the adult population as a whole.
"Mobile Device Use While Driving: U.S. and 7 European Countries," CDC 2011
More than two-thirds of U.S. adult drivers aged reported they had talked on their cell phone while driving at least once in the past 30 days. In European countries, percentages ranged from 20 percent to 60 percent.
"Surveillance to Inform Distracted Driving Policy: Surveys of San Diego College Students and Adults," UCSD 2011
Distracted driving is a highly prevalent behavior in college students, who have higher confidence in their own driving skills and ability to multitask than they have in their colleagues. The higher the witnessing of distracted driving in others, the more likely the student was to engage in distracted driving.
"Young Drivers Report the Highest Level of Phone Involvement in Crash or Near-Crash Incidences," NHTSA 2012
This research note extracts information from the December 2011 survey about cell phone use and distracted driving for young drivers.
"Distraction Effects of In-Vehicle Tasks Requiring Number and Text Entry Using Auto Alliance's Principle 2.1B Verification Procedure," NHTSA 2012
This experiment was conducted to assess the distraction potential of secondary tasks using the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers' Principle 2.1B verification procedure. Secondary tasks included radio tuning, destination entry, 10-digit dialing, dialing via contact selection, and text messaging were performed using the original equipment systems of a 2010 Toyota Prius V and an iPhone 3GS smart phone.
"National Phone Survey on Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors," NHTSA 2011
This survey was a nationally representative telephone survey of 6,002 drivers 18 and older from all 50 States and the District of Columbia. The goal was to assess current attitudes and self-reported behaviors about distracted driving. Also assessed were perceptions of safety, cell phone use, laws, fines, and enforcement.
"National Distracted Driving Telephone Survey Finds Most Drivers Answer the Call, Hold the Phone, and Continue to Drive," NHTSA 2011
This report summarizes the National Phone Survey on Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors conducted in 2011.
"Distraction Effects of Manual Number and Text Entry While Driving," NHTSA 2011
This experiment was conducted to assess the distraction potential of secondary tasks performed using in-vehicle systems (radio tuning, destination entry) and portable phones (10-digit dialing, selecting contacts, text messaging) while driving.
"Developing a Test to Measure Distraction Potential of In-Vehicle Information System Tasks in Production Vehicles," NHTSA 2011
Three experiments were conducted to assess a test of distraction potential for in-vehicle information systems (IVIS) and portable devices used while driving. The test used a low-fidelity (PC-based) driving simulator; sensors record drivers' control inputs in stationary production vehicles. Participants performed car-following and target detection together with secondary tasks.
"Driver Electronic Use in 2012," NHTSA 2014
This research note summarizes distracted driving data collected by observing drivers in 2012.
"Adults and Cell Phone Distractions," Pew Research Center 2010
This report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project indicates widespread texting or talking on a cell phone while driving among adults.
"Driver Electronic Use in 2011," NHTSA 2013
This research note summarizes distracted driving data collected by observing drivers in 2011.
"Teens and Distracted Driving," Pew Research Center 2009
This report indicates that, in the absence of enforcement, few teens obey the North Carolina texting while driving ban.
Prevention and Enforcement
"Process Overview of the High-Visibility Enforcement Programs Targeting Handheld Device Users in California and Delaware," NHTSA 2015
The information in this process report includes: (1) how to plan and implement a regional/statewide HVE program that targets phone use while driving; (2) distracted driving enforcement practices; and (3) lessons learned from the California and Delaware distracted driving demonstration programs.
"Evaluation of the NHTSA Distracted Driving High-Visibility Enforcement Demonstration Projects in California and Delaware," NHTSA 2015
High-visibility enforcement (increased police presence supported by paid and earned media) was implemented in the Sacramento area of California and in Delaware in support of laws banning the use of handheld cell phones while driving. The program evaluation included analyzing media and enforcement activity data, administering an awareness survey, conducting roadside observations of driver electronic device use, and analyzing crash data.
"Understanding the Effects of Distracted Driving and Developing Strategies to Reduce Resulting Deaths and Injuries," NHTSA 2013
This report documents what is known about distracted driving, including distractions other than the use of personal communications devices, discusses metrics to better determine the nature and scope of the problem, and discusses countermeasure approaches and strategies for enhancing awareness and reducing deaths and injuries.
"Four High-Visibility Enforcement Demonstration Waves in Connecticut and New York Reduce Hand-Held Phone Use," NHTSA 2011
This follow-up research note corroborates an earlier report that high-visibility enforcement can reduce hand-held phone use behind the wheel.
"High Visibility Enforcement Demonstration Programs in Connecticut and New York Reduce Hand-Held Phone Use," NHTSA 2010
This report covers the first two (of four) enforcement waves in NHTSA's pilot study, with early data indicating that high-visibility enforcement can reduce hand-held phone use behind the wheel.
"Curbing Distracted Driving: 2010 Survey of State Safety Programs," GHSA 2010
This report from the Governors' Highway Safety Association includes a state-by-state look at efforts to reduce distracted driving.
Measurement Methodology and Meta-Studies
"Is Your Baby Safe on the Road?," American Baby and Safe Kids Worldwide 2013
Nearly 10% of new moms have been in a crash while driving with their baby — nearly three times higher than the rate among the general population.
"Observational Study of Cell Phone and Texting Use Among California Drivers," Safe Transportation Research and Education Center UC Berkeley 2012
The percentage of distracted driving by electronic devices observed increased to 6.2% in 2012 from 4.2% in 2011. The age group of 16-24-year-olds had a significantly higher rate of distracted driving (11.4%) compared with older age groups.
"Overview of Results From the International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group Survey on Distracted Driving Data Collection and Reporting," NHTSA 2010
This survey of the international crash data collection community identifies methods for collecting and reporting on crashes involving distracted driving.
"Driver Electronic Device Use Observation Protocol," NHTSA 2010
This NHTSA Research Note describes the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) and how it observes and reports on driver cell phone use.
Distraction and Crash Risk
"Eyes on the road: Searching for answers to the problem of distracted driving," IIHS 2014
A new study by IIHS in partnership with Virginia Tech helps clarify the risk of cellphone use behind the wheel and offers insight into other distracting things drivers do when they aren't using cellphones. The research points to the need for a broader strategy to deal with the ways that drivers can be distracted.
"Distracted Driving and Risk of Road Crashes among Novice and Experienced Drivers," NEJM 2014
Novice drivers engaged in secondary tasks more frequently over time … possibly because of increased confidence in driving… Dialing and texting (is a) significant risk factor, particularly among novice drivers.
"Young Drivers Report the Highest-Level Phone Involvement in Crash or Near Crash Incidences," NHTSA 2011
Only about 1 out of 5 young drivers think that texting makes no difference to their driving performance. 68 percent of young drivers 18 to 20 are willing to answer incoming phone calls on some, most, or all driving trips.
"Impact of Hand-Held and Hands-Free Cell Phone Use on Driving Performance," VTTI
Talking on a cell phone, of any type, was not associated with an increased safety-critical event risk. Visual-manual subtasks (such as dialing) performed on a handheld cell phone were associated with an increased (crash) risk and significantly increased the percentage of time drivers took their eyes off the forward roadway.
"Teen Driver Distraction Study, UMTRI-Toyota," UMTRI 2012
Parents who engage in distracting behaviors more frequently have teens who engage in distracting behaviors. Teens read or send text messages once a trip 26 times more often than their parents think they do.
"The Impact of Hand-Held And Hands-Free Cell Phone Use on Driving Performance and Safety-Critical Event Risk," NHTSA 2012
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of distraction from the use of three types of cell phones while driving: (1) hand-held, (2) portable hands-free, and (3) integrated handsfree.
"Final Visual-Manual NHTSA Driver Distraction Guidelines for In-Vehicle Electronic Devices (Phase 1)," NHTSA 2013
Recommended guidelines based on The Impact of Hand-Held And Hands-Free Cell Phone Use on Driving Performance and Safety-Critical Event Risk study.
"Distracted Driving and Driver, Roadway, and Environmental Factors," NHTSA 2010
This study analyzes two types of inattention-related factors: a driver's interaction with in-vehicle sources of distraction and cognitive activities such as thinking about personal, financial, or family problems.
"Crash Factors in Intersection-Related Crashes: an On-Scene Perspective," NHTSA 2010
This report analyzes the association of the immediate reasons for a critical pre-crash event with other intersection crash factors.
"Driver Distraction in Commercial Vehicle Operations," FMCSA 2009
This study is a detailed investigation of commercial motor vehicle driver distraction.
"A Decrease in Brain Activation Associated with Driving When Listening to Someone Speak" Carnegie Mellon University 2008
This study shows that listening to a conversation draws significant mental resources away from driving and undermines driving performance, even when the conversation does not require holding a phone.
"The Effects of Text Messaging on Young Novice Driver Performance," (Australia) Monash University Accident Research Centre 2006
This study provides evidence that sending or receiving text messages has a detrimental effect on safe driving among inexperienced drivers.
"Examining the Impact of Cell Phone Conversations on Driving" (synthesis of findings among 23 studies), Human Factors 2006
This study indicates that engaging in cell phone conversations slows driver reaction times to external events.
"The 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study - Results of the 100-Car Field Experiment," NHTSA 2006
Observations recorded by in-vehicle instrumentation show that almost 80% of all crashes and 65% of all near-crashes involved the driver looking away from the roadway just prior to the event.
"A Comparison of the Cell Phone Driver and the Drunk Driver," Human Factors 2006
A study from the University of Utah indicates that the impairment associated with using a cell phone while driving can be as profound as that associated with drunk driving.
"Profiles in Driver Distraction: Effects of Cell Phone Conversations on Younger and Older Drivers," Human Factors 2004
This study from the University of Utah indicates that when both younger and older drivers used cell phones, their reactions were 18% slower and there was a two-fold increase in the number of rear-end collisions.
"Passenger and Cell-Phone Conversations in Simulated Driving" Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting 2004
This study demonstrates that the number of driving errors is higher when conversing on a cell phone than when conversing with a passenger.
"Wireless Telephones and the Risk of Road Crashes," (Canada) ScienceDirect Accident Analysis & Prevention 2003
This report indicates that the relative risk of accidents is higher for users of cell phones than for non-users; as driver cell-use increases, accident risk also increases.
"Cell Phone-Induced Failures of Visual Attention During Simulated Driving," Journal of Experimental Psychology 2003
This study finds that hands-free cell phone conversations created "inattention blindness" and impaired driver reactions to vehicles braking in front of them.