Survey: Young Drivers in Denial about Distracted Driving Risks

Younger drivers are likely to consider themselves safe but still engage in various distracted driving habits, according to a survey released yesterday by tire manufacturer Bridgestone.

The online survey recorded responses from 2,012 15- to 21-year-olds from across the U.S., recording many statements from young motorists who believe they are not at risk on the road, which contradicts widely accepted research that distracted driving is dangerous.

Teens are more likely than other age groups to be involved in fatal crashes where distraction is reported, according to statistics from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Other research compares the delay caused by using a cell phone behind the wheel to having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent, the legal limit.

‘Why Do You Do It?’

Those surveyed were asked to answer several statements, including the reason that they engage in distracted driving “given that driving while distracted can be dangerous.” The responses to “why do you do it”:

–62 percent said, “I take extra precautions to make sure I don’t get too distracted.”

–53 percent said, “I don’t believe I get too distracted while driving.”

–18 percent said, “My parents, everyone else does it.”

–16 percent said, “I think I’m a much safer driver than everyone else.”

–14 percent said, “I do it all the time and nothing has happened.”

–10 percent offered other justifications.

Most Say They Are ‘Very Safe’ Drivers

Virtually all of respondents believed they were at least “a somewhat safe driver,” while a full two-thirds of respondents said they believed they are “very safe.” Of those surveyed, 16- to 17-year-olds were slightly more likely to consider themselves in the “very safe” category.

Almost one-third of those who responded that they believe they are safe drivers based their opinion on a lack of tickets and violations and never being in a crash.

But when comparing what those surveyed young motorists believed about themselves with what they actually do on the road, an argument could be made that they don’t have a full view of the real dangers of distracted driving.

Most young drivers still engage in a handful of distracted driving activities at least occasionally, including changing music, playing loud music and having more than one person in the car.

One-third of respondents admitted to reading text at least occasionally, while one-fifth said they typed texts “at least occasionally.”

Efforts Made Against Distracted Driving Nationwide

The survey was published toward the end of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month as federal and state transportation officials attended the first Texas Distracted Driving Summit in Austin yesterday.

“Too many families have lost loved ones in 100 percent preventable crashes,” distracted driving awareness advocate Jennifer Smith stated in a press release publicizing the summit from the Texas Department of Transportation. Smith began her fight against distracted driving after her mother was killed in a 2008 crash where the other driver was using his cell phone.

The Texas DOT estimates that more than 81,000 crashes in the state, 361 of them fatal, involved some type of driver distraction or inattention in 2011, meaning almost 1 out of every 4 collisions in the state was due to distracted driving, according to the release.

Beyond the human cost of distraction-related collisions, costs incurred by insurance companies related to those crashes can run up premiums for everyone in the state and make cheap car insurance in Texas and other states hard to find.

Insurance companies compensating injured drivers may end up inflating premiums to recoup losses, so more serious crashes on the road usually means higher prices. Insurance rates for younger drivers are higher everywhere in the U.S. because research and claims statistics commonly link them to risky roadway habits.

Officials across the U.S. are also publicizing campaign slogans in their fights against distracted driving. The Texas DOT began its “Talk. Text. Crash. campaign last year, while the California Office of Traffic Safety publicized its “Don’t be a Zombie” slogan in a popular television commercial.

Federal officials’ slogan during the national awareness month is “One Text or Call Could Wreck It All.”

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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