Hyderabad: Four Indian cities — Chandigarh, Amritsar, Ahmedabad and Lucknow — have featured in the top 10 of a list of cities for distracted driving. A collaborative research effort between IIIT Hyderabad, IIIT Delhi and Carnegie Mellon University revealed the extent of distracted driving, while engaged online, across several global cities.

United States’ National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA 2016) reported around 391,000 injuries in the country due to distracted driving. They linked 14% of all fatal crashes to smartphone use.

Distracted driving refers to anything that takes your attention away from safe driving, including talking on phone, texting, eating and drinking, fiddling with the stereo system. Recently, it includes smartphone-associated usage such as taking videos, posting content online, and so on.

In a bid to find the cause of such behaviour, the authors of the paper began with Goffman’s theory. He postulated that in social settings, people are always engaged in the process of “impression management” likening it to a dramatic or staged performance.

Posting of distracted driving content on Snapchat is predominantly higher in Middle-eastern and Indian cities, as compared to other cities across the world. Posting snaps while driving is more pronounced than posting of other online content from 6 pm to 2 am. The study found males and youngsters posting more distracted driving content than females and older people.

The research team studied and collected data posted on Snapchat in one month earlier this year. They used the Snapmap feature where content is automatically geo-tagged and shown in a localised region. They collected data in the form of 6.43 million snaps from 173 countries across the world.

The team used a machine-learning model first to determine whether the post came from the driver’s seat or the passenger side in a car. In this way, they tried to label content as distracted driving versus regular. They found that around 23.56% of snaps consisted of distracted driving.

Speaking on the research, Prof Ponnurangam Kumaruguru said, “Our interest is to nudge and persuade users about the dangers of distracted driving. The other is to increase drivers’ awareness about this issue. During the research, we also enumerated other scenarios like the Blue Whale challenge and the Kiki challenge where people were indulging in risky behaviour. We found a large number of distracted driving posts on Snapchat during this process.”

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