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Analysis of cellphone data reveals Highway 101 safer than Interstate 280

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The tech company Zendrive also found that the San Mateo Bridge is the most dangerous bridge in the Bay Area, and the Golden Gate Bridge is the safest. (Courtesy photo)

Interstate Highway 280 in the Bay Area is more dangerous for drivers than U.S. Highway 101, and lunchtime is the most dangerous time to commute.

Those are among the data-driven findings of Zendrive, a tech company that crunches information from cellphone sensors to measure road safety.

The revelations come from Zendrive’s Bay Area Commute Safety Snapshot, a new mapping tool the company will launch today to provide local drivers with mapped road safety data.

Drivers can use the tool to figure out the most dangerous commute times, shown in 15-minute intervals, and the safest commute routes to take in the Bay Area, which are ranked as low-, moderate- and high-risk routes.

The findings come from anonymized sensor data, garnered in part by smartphone sensors like accelerometers, the very same feature that lets a phone know when its turned sideways. That motion data, gathered in November 2017, revealed car crashes, whether a driver is using his or her phone “outside of a mount,” speeding and more, according to Zendrive.

Though Zendrive has analyzed anonymous data of 50 billion miles driven far beyond the Bay Area’s borders, Noah Budnick, director of public policy at Zendrive, said they wanted this new tool to launch “in our backyard.”

“We really like to use the Bay Area as our lab,” Budnick said. The company analyzed 100,000 Bay Area drivers making about 1.25 million trips on 62 routes either beginning or ending in San Francisco.

The data also revealed that the San Mateo Bridge is the “most dangerous” Bay Area bridge during the morning commute, and the Golden Gate Bridge is the safest. The “deadliest” driving times are during non-peak hours, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., hovering right around lunch.

And, with the exception of the early hours before 5 a.m., Highway 101 is “always safer” than Interstate 280. More than half the time 101 is safer by 4.3 percent, according to Zendrive.

“The overall number [of commuters] on 101 are higher,” Budnick said. “But if you normalize the two roads, what you see is 280, per driver, is more risky road to be on.”

Zendrive’s Bay Area Commute Safety Snapshot is available to use at zendrive.com/commute, and is slated to go live today.

The tool may help people “adjust their commutes, leave a little bit earlier, and drive during a safer time” Budnick said.

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