USAA, TTI Begin Extensive Distracted Driving Study

Inside of car distracted driving research project

TTI is responsible for one of the nation’s most extensive texting-while-driving studies – one that demonstrated how texting behind the wheel doubles a driver’s reaction time.

The United Services Automobile Association (USAA) has contracted with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) to conduct an extensive study on the use of cell phones by Texas drivers, and distracted driving in general. The effort is the first involving TTI and USAA, one of the nation’s most respected insurance companies offering insurance protection and financial services to the U.S. military and their families for more than 90 years.

A survey of roughly 3,000 people will be conducted in driver’s license stations operated by the Texas Department of Public Safety in several regions around the state. The sample size will allow researchers to examine which demographic groups are most affected by the distracted driving issue and what their attitudes and self-reported behaviors are, according to TTI Senior Research Scientist Katie Womack, who will lead the study.

“Focus groups will also be conducted to explain in greater detail the thought processes and behavior motivations underlying texting, cell phone use, and other distractions while driving,” Womack says. “The two approaches combined will lead to recommendations for consideration of the most appropriate intervention and/or education strategies.”

USAA visited TTI in 2012 for a discussion that focused on USAA’s interests in current and emerging roadway safety issues, along with a review of TTI’s capabilities and current research activities. TTI is responsible for one of the nation’s most extensive texting-while-driving studies – one that demonstrated how texting behind the wheel doubles a driver’s reaction time.

USAA, a longtime advocate for safe driving, hosted Distracted Driving Summits last year in Texas and Florida, in conjunction with each state’s Department of Transportation, Shriners Hospitals and the Distraction Advocate Network. The objective was to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving and compel people to personally change their driving behaviors; you can watch highlights on YouTube (keyword: Florida Distracted Driving Summit, presented by USAA).

“USAA is clearly focused on some of the most pressing roadway safety problems that our society now faces, and TTI is focused on pursuing solutions to those problems,” says TTI Director Dennis Christiansen. “We’re confident that together we’re going to make a very strong and effective team.”

“We are committed to promoting vehicle and driver safety for the protection of our military members and their families,” says USAA Executive Director Joel Camarano. “USAA is excited to form this relationship with TTI, a leader in roadway safety research for over 60 years.”