Where Are the Most Distracted Drivers? Where Are the Safest?

By: - April 13, 2017 12:00 am

A California driver uses her phone while stopped in traffic in Sacramento. New data indicates risky driving behavior varies by state and region.

© The Associated Press

Midwesterners are the safest drivers, while Northeasterners speed the most and Southern drivers are most likely to use cellphones while driving.

Or so new results from a mobile application carried by drivers on their smartphones over millions of miles between April 2016 and March 2017 suggest.

The differences in regional and even state-by-state driving habits cast new light on recent statistics that show the most dramatic two-year increase in road-related fatalities in decades, and add fuel to the debate over the effect state laws and enforcement play in making travel on streets and highways less dangerous.

Everquote, an online insurance marketplace, drew its conclusions on regional driving habits from information gathered during 2.7 million car trips over 230 million miles by users of its Everdrive app, for customers who want to gauge and improve their safety habits. The app uses smartphone components to detect speeding, as well as signs of distraction such as phone use and sudden stops, turns and acceleration, said CEO Seth Birnbaum.

Birnbaum said he suspects Everdrive users are safer than average, because downloading the app shows an interest in safe driving habits. That even those people speed on 36 percent of their trips and use phones on 38 percent of them is a sign that “we have even further to go as a nation in addressing these issues than we thought,” he said.

Almost everyone breaks the rules sometimes, even when they know an app is recording what they do. But some do it more than others.

Mississippi drivers use their phones, either for talking or texting, on almost half their trips. Drivers from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Hawaii and New Hampshire break the speed limit by 10 mph or more on more than half their trips. California and New Jersey drivers stop short the most, and also do the most risky accelerating. West Virginia and North Carolina drivers make the most abrupt turns.

Some of the differences may be explained by state laws. Few Southern states, for example, have blanket laws that ban the use of cellphones while driving, according to an assessment of state laws this month by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Lower speed limits in the Northeast may make it easier to get caught speeding.

In its March report on a projected record 11 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities for 2016, the Governors Highway Safety Association pointed to an increase in driving after the recession, as well as more distractions from growing cellphone use by drivers and pedestrians, as the likely causes.

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Tim Henderson
Tim Henderson

Tim Henderson covers demographics for Stateline. He has been a reporter at the Miami Herald, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Journal News.