Inclusion of phone use while driving data in predicting distraction-affected crashes. Academic Article uri icon


  • INTRODUCTION: Given the tremendous number of lives lost or injured, distracted driving is an important safety area to study. With the widespread use of cellphones, phone use while driving has become the most common distracted driving behavior. Although researchers have developed safety performance functions (SPFs) for various crash types, SPFs for distraction-affected crashes are rarely studied in the literature. One possible reason is the lack of critical distracted behavior information in the commonly used safety data (i.e., roadway inventory, traffic, and crash counts). Recently, the frequency of phone use while driving (referred to as phone use data) is recorded by mobile application companies and has become available to safety researchers. The primary objective of this study is to examine if phone use data can potentially predict distracted-affected crashes. METHOD: The authors first integrated phone use data with roadway inventory, traffic, and crash data in Texas. Then, the Random Forest (RF) algorithm was applied to assess the significance of the feature - phone use while driving - for predicting the number of distraction-affected crashes on a road segment. Further, this study developed two SPFs for distraction-affected crashes with and without the phone use data, separately. Both SPFs were assessed in terms of model fitting and prediction performances. RESULTS: RF results rank the frequency of phone use as an important factor contributing to the number of distraction-affected crashes. Performance evaluations indicated that the inclusion of phone use data in the SPFs consistently improved both fitting and prediction abilities to predict distracted-affected crashes. Practical Applications: The phone use data provide new insights into the safety analyses of distraction-affected crashes, which cannot be achieved by only using the conventional roadway inventory and crash data. Therefore, safety researchers and practitioners are encouraged to incorporate the emerging data sources in reducing distraction-affected crashes.

published proceedings

  • J Safety Res

altmetric score

  • 1.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Guo, X., Wu, L., Kong, X., & Zhang, Y.

citation count

  • 5

complete list of authors

  • Guo, Xiaoyu||Wu, Lingtao||Kong, Xiaoqiang||Zhang, Yunlong

publication date

  • January 2021