Massachusetts drivers use the #whiledriving hashtag a lot, which is not good

If folks check their phones while driving, why wouldn’t they check their babies?
A new study on distracted driving antics will have you shaking your head. –iStock

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. But a recent report indicates social media remains a problem for the push to keep drivers focused on road safety.

An analysis of the social media hashtag #whiledriving found too many drivers in the U.S. are taking photos and recording videos when they should be concentrating on the road.

Erie Insurance, an insurance company based in Erie, Pennsylvania, analyzed Twitter and Instagram posts that used the hashtag from mobile devices to find users were snapping photos sunsets, sunrises, traffic or selfies while driving.

A search of the hashtag on Instagram yielded more than 18,000 results.


Erie reviewed 90 days worth of social media tracking data provided by analytics firm Keyhole. The data was drawn from smartphones and tablets that had their location services activated.

Doug Smith, Erie Insurance’s senior vice president of Personal Lines, said the pattern illustrates a “clearly an unsafe situation.’’

“Drivers should be keeping their hands on the wheel, their eyes on the road, and their attention on driving, but based on our analysis of the ‘while driving’ hashtag, many appear instead to be gazing off into the sunset, often times snapping and sharing photos,’’ said Smith.

Erie’s findings supports a previous report from the AAA Foundation that found 87 percent of drivers engaged in at least one type of unsafe behavior in the previous 30 days.

Motorists appear to be easily distracted by natural surroundings. The study found the 10 most common hashtags that were used in conjunction with #whiledriving included clouds, sunset, sky, nature, sun, nofilter, landscape, car, driving and selfie.

The company’s research found drivers in Massachusetts ranked No. 7 among states with the most posts using the #whiledriving hashtag. California, Florida, and Texas were the top three states.

In 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle collisions involving a distracted driver. Smith called the figures “alarming’’ and hopes that Erie’s findings will serve as a wake-up call to drivers who feel the need to take photos and videos from behind the wheel.


“While it’s understandable to want to share a picturesque sky with your social media followers—imagine if it were the last one,’’ said Smith. “It’s just not worth it. We hope our analysis helps drive that point home.’’

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