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Clarke Stats Course Examines Cell Phone Usage Among Dubuque Drivers

posted on June 12, 2009

Do Dubuque drivers talk on their cell phones more than in other areas of the country? Depending on the time of day, the results from a project in a recent summer statistics course at Clarke College suggest the answer is yes.

During the course, the 16 students in the class studied usage rates at various Dubuque intersections. At the intersections (Dodge and Locust, Grandview and Delhi, Grandview and College, JFK and Asbury, and Asbury and Northwest Arterial), the class observed drivers and recorded gender and whether or not they were holding a cell phone to their ear.  The observation happened at peak times between 7-8:15 a.m. and 4-5:15 p.m. 

Over 5,300 drivers were observed and in analyzing the data, the results showed that the rate of drivers using a cell phone was 6.7 percent. It’s estimated that nationally, 5 percent of drivers use a cell phone at any given time and as many as 80 percent say they talk on their cell phones at some time while driving.

The project also showed that the afternoon rate of usage at these intersections was nearly three times that of the morning (9.5 percent in the afternoon compared to 3.5 percent in the morning). Women’s use outpaced men’s 7.7 percent to 5.6 percent, with a larger disparity in the morning (4.4 percent to 2.3 percent) than in the afternoon (11.1 percent to 8.0 percent).

So, what was the second most commonly carried object? Cheeseburgers. The class also noted one person applying mascara and fewer than one dozen drivers smoking.

The goals for the project included learning to use data to confirm or refute personal perceptions and the difficulties involved in real data collection. It was also a chance for students to learn about the use of sampling in order to make inferences about larger populations and methods for computing margins of error.

“Because the context is interesting to the students, they get more involved in what they are doing,” said Associate Professor of Mathematics Sean Bradley, Ph.D., who taught the course. “And because they are more involved, the students ask better questions, cast a more critical eye and are more invested in being correct than when just doing exercises from the book.  This experiment is their data and their questions.”

For more information, contact the Clarke College Marketing and Communication Office at (563)588-6318.

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