Phone use study finds Oregon drivers are “least distracted” in America

Using a cell phone while driving is a dangerous, selfish, and illegal behavior that has become far too common.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

via Streetsblog USA

A company that uses sensors in smartphones to study driving behavior has revealed startling — yet unsurprising — facts about Americans’ selfish attitudes while behind the wheel of their cars: People use their phones during 88 out of 100 trips. When extrapolated out for the entire U.S. population, that number shoots up to about 600 million distracted trips per day.

In what they bill as the “largest and most robust driver phone use study done to date on the planet,” Zendrive analyzed three million drivers and 570 million trips over a three-month period.

While what they found is unnerving to say the least, Oregon drivers came in as the “least distracted” in the entire country. By calculating the average amount of time drivers use their phones everyday divided by the average time they drive everyday, Zendrive determined that Oregon drivers used their phones while driving 3.7 percent of the time. The most distracted state was Vermont, whose drivers used their phones 7.4 percent of the time.


Phone use by state shows that westerners tend to be less distracted.

The study also found that of the ten states with the lowest distraction levels, six have laws that ban hand-held phone use (and so does Vermont, for what it’s worth). Overall, the impact of cell phone laws on driving behavior remains inconclusive.

On a citywide level, Portland came in 10th out of 15 cities. Los Angeles had the most distracted drivers and Seattle came in as least distracted.

Another way to look at the data is that during an hour-long trip, drivers spent an average of 3.5 minutes on their phones. “This finding is frightening,” the report authors said. “Especially when you consider that a 2-second distraction is long enough to increase your likelihood of crashing by over 20-times. In other words, that’s equivalent to 105 opportunities an hour that you could nearly kill yourself and/or others.”

If the performance of Oregon drivers isn’t enough to give you a bit of solace, you might be interested to know that Zendrive isn’t just a faceless company that just crunches numbers. They’re an advocacy group that’s fully behind Vision Zero and they’re actively working to help cities reduce — and eventually eliminate — traffic deaths. “Zendrive is working with communities, local decision-makers, safety experts and driving coaches to use our data to save lives,” their website reads. “If you can measure it, you can manage it.”

And Zendrive’s Director of Public Policy & Government Affairs is Noah Budnick, a veteran active transportation advocate who formerly served as executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and deputy director of Transportation Alternatives in New York City. As a member of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s transition team, Budnick is credited for helping introduce the first Vision Zero policy in America.

Check out the study results and download the full report here.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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