Data Report: How the American Driver Uses Mobile Tech

For the past year, Drivemode has studied American driving trends to discover favorite messaging and music apps, most GPSed locations, commuter behaviors, and traffic patterns. To gain more perspective on American drivers overall, Drivemode conducted an analysis of broad trends occurring across technology-using drivers. Looking at data going back through 2018, Drivemode has created a profile of how an average American driver uses mobile technology in the car. 

Including over 2.7 million anonymized Android users in the United States, Drivemode’s data analysis spans January 1, 2018 through April 30, 2019 and covers over 167 million miles driven and 13.3 million hours of driving time. For the purposes of this study and to eliminate outlier data, driving trends are analyzed and averaged between the hours of 7am and 7pm, when people are most active behind the wheel. 

Drivemode users are inherently more likely to use technology in the car because they are using the app’s driving-optimized interface precisely for the purpose of managing messaging, music, and navigation. Therefore, the study focuses on technology usage trends for an average driver that has access to their favorite or most necessary apps, safely optimized for driving. 

“Since the early 1900s when billboards were standardized from coast to coast, companies have sought to earn the attention of drivers behind the wheel in more efficient and effective ways,” said Yo Koga, Drivemode co-founder and CEO. “Learning how a driver uses their preferred apps on their mobile device can inform legislation, advertising, marketing, and the development of automotive technology.” 

The results of the study reveal that in one hour of driving time the average American driver:

  • spends 7.46 minutes, or 12% of their driving time, talking on their mobile phone 
  • spends 31.92 seconds sending and listening to messages (hands-free)
  • spends 44.63 minutes, or 74% of their driving time listening to music through a phone
  • changes music to a previous or subsequent song 9 times, which is every 6 minutes and 40 seconds. 
  • changes music volume 2 times 
  • receives 5 messages and sends one message (hands-free)
  • sends 49.1% of messages via SMS, 23.8% of messages via Whatsapp and 20.3% via Facebook 
  • listens to music through Spotify 30.4% of the time, followed by Google Music 27% of the time
  • drives 19.06 miles at 45 miles per hour

“The results show that American drivers are not shy about talking on the phone, and still prefer SMS over apps for their messaging. Listening to music through a mobile device is clearly a preferred activity over radio, though it’s hard to keep a driver listening to a playlist as they are changing the music every 7 minutes or so,” said Koga. “Even when messaging is optimized for hands-free safety, incoming messages still outnumber outgoing messages 5 to 1, showing drivers’ preferences for voice communication.” 


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