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#Driving Danger Study - The Second Annual Analysis

Driving Danger Study 2017 Header

In 2015, for the first time in decades, fatal traffic accidents rose by over 7 percent. In the first six months of 2016, things looked even grimmer, with 10 percent more traffic accidents than the record-breaking year before. According to The New York Times, distracted driving and apps are largely to blame. A particularly disturbing example of distracted driving is this: taking selfies while on the road.

In 2016, we analyzed over 70,000 Instagram posts tagged #DrivingSelfie, #SelfieWhileDriving, #HopeIDon’tCrash, and other driving selfie-related hashtags. We looked at where these posts came from, who liked them, and who posted them. The results were shocking.

This year, we’ve done it again, compiling hashtag data to see if anything has changed when it comes to distracted driving. Here’s what we learned.

Distracted Driving Continues to Rise

Instagram Driving Posts Annually

In 2016, driving-related hashtags hit a new high, and in 2017, they’re set to climb even higher, with 22,690 Instagram posts in just the first quarter.

As Instagram has doubled its active user base in the last two years, it begs the question: Are more people distracted on the road because they now have a platform to share their morning commute, or were these drivers already multitasking while on the road, such as talking on their cellphone or eating on the run?

#Driving Selfies, by State

Instagram Driving Selfies by State

When it comes to cavalier attitudes toward driving safety, not all people feel the same. The top states for the most Instagram posts with driving-related hashtags per 100,000 residents were Wyoming (nearly 44 posts), Nevada (over 41 posts), and Utah (almost 39 posts).

However, Mississippi had less than three posts per 100,000 people, and Iowa had just over four posts.

The Most Dangerous Distractions

Cellphone Related Accident Reasons

While distracted driving is always dangerous, some activities behind the wheel can be particularly fatal. According to Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data from 2015, other cellphone-related activities, such as texting or using apps, were more often the reasons for fatal vehicle accidents (over 47 percent).

After a fatal accident, it can be difficult to determine who was or wasn’t using their phone. However, research has shown cellphones are most likely the cause of over 25 percent of U.S. accidents.

Additionally, at any given time during daylight hours, approximately 9 percent of drivers are talking on their cellphones.

Do as I Say, Not as I Do

Driving Cellphone Perception and Behavior

In a survey of more than 1,000 Americans, the vast majority believed using mobile apps while driving was dangerous but they still it regularly. The group most likely to use apps while driving “often” was those aged 18 to 24; however, 95 percent of this age group believed it was a dangerous practice.

Further, the group least likely to use mobile apps “often” while driving was those aged 55 or older.

Who’s in Danger From Distracted Driving?

Driving Cellphone Fatalities Average Age

Distracted driving is a danger to everyone, but those most likely to lose their life in a cellphone-related accident are teenagers and young adults. Risk levels peak between 17 and 21 and drop steeply afterward – a finding that aligns with the fact that car accidents are the leading cause of death for American teens and that teen drivers are much more dangerous than adults.

Reacting to Distracted Driving

Driving Cellphone Feelings and Intervention

Does it make you nervous when someone uses a mobile app while driving with you in the car? If you’re like most Americans (over 74 percent), then the answer is yes. Unfortunately, even if respondents were uncomfortable with this activity, a significant percentage (32 percent) wouldn’t speak up. But what if more people spoke up? Would there be fewer accidents? How many fatal accidents could potentially be avoided with just a few words?

Only 17 percent of those surveyed would ask the driver to stop and allow them to get out of the car if they didn’t comply.

Stopping Distracted Driving

Cellphone Driving Danger and Intervention

Interestingly, while many people wouldn’t ask a driver to stop using a mobile app even if they were uncomfortable, most drivers (75 percent) would stop if asked. Could it be working up the courage to ask our loved ones not to use their phones while driving is the solution?

Over 8 percent of drivers also admitted they have had a close call while using a mobile app and driving. Despite this fact, most of our survey respondents continue using apps while en route.

When and Why We Drive Distracted

Cellphone Driving When and Why

In our survey of more than 1,000 drivers, we asked people when they were most likely to use their phone while driving. The most common answers were when they were stopped at a red light or stopped in traffic. Interestingly, survey respondents were more likely to use their phone on the highway than when they were going less than 25 mph.

The biggest reasons for using a cellphone while on the road were to look up directions, change music, and notify loved ones they were on their way or would be late. While these may seem more legitimate than watching a video or posting on social media, they’re equally as dangerous and preventable. Looking up directions or texting significant others is something easily done before leaving a parking lot or after pulling over.

Distracted Driving Around the World

Cellphone Driving Worldwide

When it comes to posting driving selfies, the U.S. is nearly five times more likely than any other country to partake in this dangerous trend. This may come as no surprise when taken into account the U.S. also has some of the longest commutes in the world and is among the top five countries for smartphone use overall.


In 2017, most Americans understand using mobile apps on the road is dangerous – but still do it. Unfortunately, this cavalier attitude leads to over 1 in 4 car crashes being cellphone-related.

So what can we do? Our survey shows asking a loved one to put away the phone can have a big impact. And if you’re tempted to use your own phone, stash it somewhere you can’t reach while driving, or force yourself to pull over if you need it urgently. Your life – and the lives of the people around you – are so much more important than sharing the traffic on social media.

With a growing number of distracted drivers on the road, it’s essential to have quality insurance coverage. For a range of safety and insurance information, explore all the resources available from Auto Insurance Center.


We analyzed over 155,000 Instagram posts with driving-related hashtags over a six-year period. We included #drivingselfie, #selfiewhiledriving, #hopeidontcrash, #ihopeidontcrash, #drivingtowork, #drivinghome, and #drivingtoschool. For our “It Can Wait” and “Trending Young” graphics, we analyzed the most recent NHTSA data. Behavioral data was collected by surveying over 1,000 US drivers about their distracted driving habits.


NOTE: If you're a journalist interested in covering this project, we encourage you to use any of the graphics included above. We just ask that you attribute Auto Insurance Center fairly in your coverage and provide a link to this page so that your audience can learn more about our work. If you'd like to discuss this project, or any of our other research, reach out to us at [email protected].