Texting and driving is a big problem on the road. If you commute each day, you’ve probably seen people applying makeup, shaving, and of course, sending messages on their phones. How big of a problem is texting and driving — and who are the worst offenders? Here is a look at some research data we have gathered on drivers in the United States.
For more information on texting and driving, see our upcoming guide: “Everything You Need to Know about Texting and Driving.”
We were curious about not only who texts and drives (and who does it most frequently) but what other distracting behaviors people engage in while on the road. More importantly — what are some real-world consequences of texting and driving, and what do motorists do when they see other drivers texting and driving?
We surveyed 163 men and women aged 18 and older who own and operate vehicles in the United States. This project was not localized to any one U.S. region, and features respondents from the East Coast, the West Coast and everywhere in between.
How Often Do People Look at Their Phones While Driving?
Texting and driving is a fairly recent problem — and one that only seems to become more prevalent. Texting and driving is an issue, but it’s really only one of many activities that distract drivers — although some of the biggest distractions come from cell phones. According to our study, 33 percent of people check their phones frequently or fairly frequently while driving. That’s one in three people on the road that wouldn’t hesitate to take a look at their phone while driving.
What Are People Doing on Their Phones While Driving?
In terms of the most common things people use their phone for while driving, listening to a navigation app (audio only) was the most common, with 66 percent of respondents saying they’ve done it, followed closely by reading text messages (50.67 percent), typing addresses into navigation apps (39.33 percent) and sending or typing text messages (30.67 percent). Things like sending and reading emails and viewing web pages were much less common.
Who Texts and Drives the Most?
Looking at gender-specific data, we discovered that that those who identified as male were almost twice as likely to check their phones while driving. While 30 percent of men check their phones frequently or fairly frequently, only 17.3 percent of women report doing so. The age group most likely to text and drive is between 18 and 29. We found no correlation between income level and likelihood of texting and driving.
What Other Distracted Driving Behaviors Do People Engage In?
Many respondents reported they also engaged in a number of other distracted driving activities. Adjusting the stereo led the way with 86.39 percent of respondents saying they do so regularly, followed by chatting with passengers (85 percent), eating (80.27 percent) and talking on the phone (74.8 percent).
Is Driving Speed a Factor?
Are those who speed more likely to text and drive or participate in other distracted driving behaviors? In terms of how fast people go, 53.74 percent of respondents reported driving around five mph over the speed limit, 16.3 percent reported they drive around ten mph over the speed limit, and only 2.72 percent reported driving more than ten mph over the speed limit.
Generally, those who drive over the speed limit were more likely to participate in a wider variety of phone activities while driving compared to the other groups. In this study, however, speeding did not seem to be a major factor in whether or not a driver had caused an accident.
Consequences for Those Responsible for an Accident
Of those surveyed, only two respondents reported having caused an accident due to distracted driving — and thankfully for the respondents, the consequences were fairly minimal. One person reported having been sued for medical expenses and saw his or her insurance rates increased, and one merely reported damage to his or her vehicle.
Consequences for Those Not Responsible for an Accident
While few respondents had caused an accident, 26 (17.57 percent) were involved in or knew someone who had been involved in a distracted driving accident. Of those, one in 13 of the accidents were fatal. Of the 26 total accidents, seven involved injuries.
Respondents also left some chilling comments regarding the incidents. Their words offer an insight into the terrible outcomes that can occur because of texting and driving or because of distracted driving more generally:
“My friend was hit head-on by a driver that was texting and driving a Penske truck. Two of my friends died and one is now permanently mentally and physically disabled.”
“My car was totaled and surgery was required to repair my shoulder. Two years of pain and healing. Lots of therapy.”
“A totaled car and a lot of frustration with the insurance companies. Luckily, no major injuries.”
“I was hit from behind by a guy who was distracted. My car was totaled and I had a sore shoulder for the first 3 days.”
What Do People Do When They See Someone Texting and Driving?
As we saw in the previous section, there are some horrible outcomes to texting and driving — indeed, it’s an action that makes passengers fearful. In fact. more than 50 percent of respondents said they feel very unsafe or terrified when they are a passenger in a vehicle where someone is texting and driving. Surprisingly, the rest of the respondents (49 percent) only felt a little unsafe or have never really worried about texting and driving. Considering the potential for injury or death, it’s surprising more people don’t feel afraid when a driver is texting while driving.
If passengers feel afraid, do they say anything while in a car with a driver who is texting? According to our survey, 69.39 percent of respondents said they’ve asked a friend or family member to stop texting while driving. While the majority have asked drivers to stop texting, it’s interesting to note that around 31 percent of respondents wouldn’t say a thing. Simply letting loved ones know you’re concerned about your safety and theirs can be enough to prevent someone from texting and driving.
What about other drivers? We’ve all likely seen a driver in another vehicle texting and driving, but what do people typically do about it? A whopping 68 percent of drivers said they do nothing when they see another driver texting; 14.97 percent said they honk at the other driver, 13.6 percent said they give the other driver a hand gesture, and 3.4 percent said they yell at the other drivers.
While some of these actions may stop someone from texting and driving in the short term, it seems unlikely to motivate a behavioral change in the future.
What Can We Do to Stop Texting and Driving?
While we can all agree that texting and driving is a problem, one in three people still text and drive and engage in other distracted driving behaviors. Perhaps these people have never stopped to consider the consequences, or simply don’t care about them. In any case, it only takes a few seconds of distraction to cause a major accident that can threaten life and limb of fellow drivers.
The only way to make a difference when it comes to texting and driving is to be a part of the solution — by making the pledge not to text and drive. Make sure your friends and loved ones know of the problems distracted driving can cause, and tell them you won’t be riding in a car with them if they’re going to be putting their passengers and other drivers at risk. We can all make a difference by setting a positive example and by speaking our minds about the dangers of texting and driving.
About Robert J. DeBry & Associates
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