The purpose of this 2018 roadside survey was to examine whether the prevalence of distracted driving generally and of individual secondary tasks had changed since the previous survey conducted in 2014. Data were collected through observing drivers of moving or stopped vehicles at twelve locations across four Northern Virginia communities during the daytime in March 2018. These locations were the same as those used in the July 2014 survey. Observations were conducted Monday to Thursday for 45 min in the morning (6:30 a.m.–10 a.m.), afternoon (11 a.m.–1:30 p.m.), and evening (4 p.m.–7 p.m.). In total, 11,851 drivers were observed in 2018, compared to 14,491 in 2014.
In 2018, results indicated that 23% of drivers were engaged in at least one secondary task, and this was not significantly different from 2014. Approximately 14% of drivers engaged in a secondary behaviour other than cellphone use, such as eating or drinking, smoking, and talking with a passenger during both 2014 and 2018. Similarly, there was no significant difference in terms of cellphone use between years. Further, the likelihood of holding a cellphone significantly decreased by 38% between 2014 and 2018 while the likelihood of manipulating a cellphone significant increased by 57%.
While there was no evidence to indicate that distracted driving has become more common in recent years, there was evidence that the prevalence of some secondary tasks has changed. This is particularly evident regarding there was a 57% increase in the likelihood of cellphone manipulation from 2014 to 2018, which is a behaviour that is consistently linked to increased crash risk. These findings suggest that secondary tasks among drivers in have changed during the last four years, despite overwhelming evidence that engaging in these tasks increase crash risk.
Kidd, D. G., & Chaudhary, N. K. (2019). Changes in the sources of distracted driving among Northern Virginia drivers in 2014 and 2018: A comparison of results from two roadside observation surveys. Journal of Safety Research, 68, 131-138.