Study reveals alarming driving habits

woman testing on hand held phone while driving carCoinciding with Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the National Safety Council has shared research that reveals alarming driving habits and perceptions among motorists.

While I encourage you to read the full article that appeared in the April 14 Seattle Times, here are some of those findings along with my thoughts from a PEMCO perspective.

"47% of drivers believe it's safe to send a text either manually or via voice-dictation systems." Yikes. But I shouldn't be surprised. Our own PEMCO Polls, conducted by FBK Research based on surveys across Washington and Oregon, revealed in 2016 that 46% of Northwest drivers talk and text when driving even though they know it's illegal to do so.

Perhaps more disturbing, when asked why they're willing to use their phones illegally, 51% of Northwest drivers said it's because they don't think using their phone in that moment "is too dangerous."

"35% of teens would use social media behind the wheel." That should alarm anyone on the road, because data shows new drivers – especially 16- and 17-year-olds – already have higher crash rates without the added distraction of social media.

man with beer reaches for car keys"71% believe they can have up to three drinks before they are not safe or too impaired to drive." Perhaps local drivers are better educated. Our 2010 PEMCO Poll asked how many drinks you could consume before becoming unsafe to drive. Women estimated they can safely consume 1.8 drinks before driving, while men projected they can handle up to 2.7 drinks before their driving is impaired.

"Two-thirds of drivers have felt unsafe because of another driver's distraction, but just 25% feel their own distractions have put themselves or others at risk." This amuses me because it reflects what we found in 2013, when half of Northwest drivers said it's very dangerous for them to drive with distractions, but far more – 78% – said it's extremely dangerous for other drivers to be distracted.

That's much like we find each year in our PEMCO Polite Driving Index, when drivers always say it's "the other guy" who has a problem. The first time we gauged this, in 2009, motorists said they witness other drivers being erratic or rude nearly 10 times as often as themselves.

men-on-phones-cross-street.jpgPEMCO learned in 2014 there's added complexity to the distracted-driving problem: 88% of drivers said they see pedestrians who are distracted, mostly by cell phones and texting, while crossing streets or walking on sidewalks. That raises pedestrians' risk of getting hit by cars because they're inattentive to their surroundings.

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