Study: most commuters text and email while driving

Traffic Safety Pulse News

A majority of drivers admit they multitask to and from work, including texting, making calls, reading emails or listening to podcasts, according to a survey conducted by researchers at the Harvard Business School, Harvard University, University of New Hampshire, and Wellesley College.

More than 80% of commuters were doing at least one other activity while driving like texting or making calls. Nearly 18% of "multitasking" involved reading emails while driving and 9.5% replying to emails, researchers said.Woman texting behind the steering wheel of her car

“Our findings suggest that some drivers are already easily distracted, and unable to keep a safe level of engagement," Raffaella Sadun, one of the researchers and a professor at Harvard Business School, said in a news release.

Published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, researchers wanted to determine current and future driving habits of commuters, and how automated cars might be designed to minimize crashes. Researchers interviewed about 400 workers, and found work-related distractions occur more often in the morning as people head to work, and personal-related distractions occur more often as workers head home in the evening.

Evaluating the potential experience of future commutes, researchers noted the danger of when cars are mostly automated, but may still require drivers to take over in emergencies. If people are distracted and multitasking, they may not react as fast as they need to, something that should be factored into automated vehicle design.

“There is clearly a lot to do in car design, but perhaps even more broadly, to accommodate the fact that we are now much more likely to be constantly distracted by phones, emails, social media, and that, for many, controlling the use of technology in the car is clearly challenging,” says Sadun.