Americans Claim to be Safe Drivers, Even While Distracted

May 19, 2008

While 98 percent of Americans claim to be safe drivers, a vast majority also admit to driving while distracted (DWD).

That’s according to a survey by Nationwide Insurance which found that more than four out of five cell-phone owners are guilty of talking on their phones while driving, and nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of all drivers admit to partaking in some form of distracting behavior while driving, from cell phone use to eating.

Further, almost 80 percent have been in a vehicle with distracted drivers and more than 40 percent have been hit or almost hit by another driver who was talking on a cell phone while driving.

“Clearly, distracted driving has taken over our roadways, and our survey shows that no one is immune – no matter how safe they think they are,” said Bill Windsor, associate vice president of Safety for Nationwide.

In fact, he added, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, distracted driving causes 80 percent of all accidents.

The survey found that the prevalence of DWD can be attributed to technology and our societal mindset to be available at all times.

Too Much Technology
Nearly half (48 percent) considered cell phones and other technology use to be the most dangerous distraction.

Availability of technology was cited by 35 percent as the reason DWD is so common today.

Use of technology extends beyond speaking on the phone to text messages and e-mail. Nearly 40 percent of teens and Gen Yers who own cell phones admit to texting while driving, which requires additional visual, cognitive and manual attention.

Too Much Pressure
Almost two-thirds of drivers who own cell phones said their colleagues, friends and family expect them to be available by cell or other electronic communication devices at all times.

The current societal mindset and busy, on-the-go lifestyles were cited by 35 percent as the reason why people drive distracted. Specifically, multitasking was cited by 22 percent and having too much to do and too little time was cited by 30 percent.

In addition to multitasking, the survey found DWD is growing in prevalence simply to stay connected socially. Nearly half of teens and Gen Y cited staying connected socially as a reason for driving while distracted.

“We found Americans think they’re safe drivers, even though they admit to driving while distracted,” continued Windsor. “This dangerous false sense of confidence combined with current ‘rules’ making it socially and professionally unacceptable to not respond immediately to a call or e-mail, have made DWD commonplace, but Americans need to realize that there is no such thing as safe DWD.”

According to the survey, older drivers are not necessarily wiser. DWD is affects drivers of all ages. In fact, only three percent of those surveyed felt that the prevalence of DWD was due solely to inexperienced or teen drivers. Well above half of all generations (78 percent of Generation Y, 80 percent of Generation X and 65 percent of Baby Boomers) were guilty of participating in tasks such as talking on a cell phone or eating.

When asked what would be most successful in preventing cell phone use while driving, respondents were closely split between technology that would automatically prevent devices from working in the car (43 percent) and laws banning the use of cell phones/electronic devices while driving (42 percent). However, in curbing all distractions, respondents placed more responsibility on drivers themselves. The individual driver was listed as most responsible for curbing the behavior by 41 percent of respondents.

Source: Nationwide

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