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The Confused State of Distracted Driving

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Driver distracted by their phone

EverQuote fielded a national online survey to 2,300 licensed American drivers on their driving habits June 18–22, 2016. The survey found drivers are unaware of how often they are actually using their phone behind the wheel and have clear misconceptions about what it takes to be a safe driver. When the survey responses were paired with actual driving data from our safe-driving app, EverDrive, the discrepancies between perceptions and reality become even more surprising.

The survey was divided 52% female and 48% male. The survey was split by age as follows: 18–24 16%, 25–34 23%, 35–44 19%, 45–54 18%, 55–64 15%, 65+ 9%. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 2.2%. We have summarized the major findings in the following EverQuote Distracted Driving Report.

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EverQuote Confused State of Driving Report

September 15, 2016

1. The Impulse to Text Back Is Real and Dangerous

Americans feel the need to answer texts fast. In fact, 55% respond to text messages right away or within 5 minutes.

  • The majority of adults (83.9%) feel the need to answer text messages within an hour or less,while only 16.1% feel the need to respond after an hour or more.
  • Males and females generally feel the same way, and age has a slight influence in how quickly Americans feel the need to respond—with aging adults more likely to take longer to feel the need to reply than younger age groups. 

QUESTION 1: How quickly do you feel you need to respond to text messages?

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2. Most Americans Think They’re Safe Drivers

  • Over 96% of respondents believe that they are safe drivers behind the wheel.
  • Slightly more male than female participants consider themselves unsafe drivers and age did not appear to be a major influence on responses.

QUESTION 2: Do you consider yourself to be a safe driver?


3. Americans See Themselves as Safe, but Not Other Drivers

Americans overwhelmingly feel that they are safe drivers themselves, but they don’t see other motorists on the road in the same light.

  • Over 96% think they are safe drivers, but 37% think less than half of other drivers on the road are safe.
  • 86% of Americans feel neutral or disagree that the majority of drivers are safe behind the wheel (11% strongly disagree).
  • Younger adults tend to agree that drivers are unsafe more often than older age groups do.

QUESTION 3: Rate how much you agree or disagree with the following statement: The majority of drivers on the road are safe behind the wheel.”


4. Divided On App Prevention

Americans are divided on whether or not they’d let a mobile app control their phone use—52.4% of Americans would let an app prevent them from using their cell phones behind the wheel, and 47.6% say no way.

  • As Americans age, they are more likely to allow an app to prevent phone use while driving.
  • Older males, 65+, were more likely to say yes than the same-age females, whereas females aged 35-44 were 15% more likely to say yes than same-age males.

QUESTION 4: Would you let a mobile app prevent you from using your phone while driving?


5. Americans Say They’re Safe Drivers, but Are They?

Though Americans overwhelmingly consider themselves safe drivers (96%), the majority of them admit to using their phones while driving in the past 30 days—61% have used their cell phones on some drives, most drives or every drive.

  • 6% every drive
  • 10% most drives
  • 45% some drives

While 56% report using their phone on at least some drives, 96% of drivers used their phones according to EverDrive data.

  • American drivers spend .4 miles on the phone distracted for every 11 miles driven. That equals 114 billion distracted miles, and 4.5 millions trips Americans could take around the world without looking up from their phones.

QUESTION 5: In the past 30 days, how often have you used your phone while driving?


6. Speeding Isn’t Everything Over the Limit

  • Even though speeding 10 MPH over the limit can increase crash risk by up to 9.1%, over one-half of all driving time is spent at least 10 MPH over the legal limit.
  • The majority (42%) consider drivers to be speeding on the highway only if they’re 10-14 MPH over the speed limit. A scary 19% don’t see drivers as speeding until they’re 15-19 MPH over the limit.
  • 10% believe 20 MPH over the limit isn’t speeding.

QUESTION 6: At what point do you consider a driver to be speeding on the highway?


7. Americans Feel States Should Do More

61% of adults believe that their state does not do enough to prevent phone use behind the wheel. Of these adults, 55% admit to some phone use while driving in the past 30 days, and 12% admit to using their phone on most or all drives.

  • Americans appear to know that using their phones while driving is dangerous and believe their state does not do enough to stop them from the bad habit—however, only a little over half  (52%) are willing to allow a mobile app prevent them from that use.
  • For drivers that don’t care about the state, 30% admit to phone use on most or all drives.

QUESTION 7: Do you think your state does enough to prevent people from using their phones while driving?


8. Alcohol Is Still the Scariest Danger

The majority of Americans (55%) feel that seeing other drivers drinking alcohol behind the wheel is the scariest action, followed by phone use and speeding.  However, the majority admit to using their phone and only see speeding as driving 10-14 MPH over the limit.

  • 20% see drivers using their phones as the scariest action to see another driver doing.
  • Only 2.6% view interacting with passengers as the scariest, even though 57% of distracted driving accidents are caused by passenger interactions.
  • 76% of phone users are scared of having an accident while using the phone behind the wheel.

QUESTION 8: Which of the following would be the scariest to see while you’re driving?


9. Americans Know the Dangers of Distracted Driving

The majority of Americans recognize the danger of using their phones and are afraid of getting into an accident behind the wheel. The fear of being bad role models or getting caught by authorities is minimal.

  • 55% are afraid of getting into an accident

QUESTION 9: What is your greatest fear when using your phone while driving?


10. Americans Speak Up About Dangers

The majority of people (60%) state that they do ask a driver to stop using their phone if they’re feeling unsafe.

  • Females responded “yes” approximately 10% more than males.
  • Younger age groups have asked driver to stop phone use more often than older Americans.

QUESTION 10: As a passenger, have you ever asked a driver to stop using their phone because you felt unsafe?


11. Americans Think They’re Safer Than Self-Driving Cars

Despite the fact that experts predict self-driving cars will reduce crashes by 90%, 81% of adults still would feel safer driving themselves.

That perception may arise from the fact that the majority of Americans consider themselves safe drivers, despite the reality their behavior: how often they use their phones while driving and at what point they consider themselves speeding.

  • Females feel they are safer driving themselves than in a self-driving car slightly more than males feel and this belief increases with age for both genders.
  • Only 19% of drivers feel they would be safer in a self-driving car.

QUESTION 11: Do you think you would be safer driving yourself or being driven by a self-driving car?