Three-Quarters of Licensed Drivers Used a Mobile Device While Driving, New Survey Finds 

PSAs, like this one from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, are no match for the temptation to use cell phones while driving.
PSAs, like this one from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, are no match for the temptation to use cell phones while driving.

A whopping 70 percent of drivers used their cellphones while driving in the last three months, according to a new survey — a startling statistic amid a nationwide spike in traffic crashes and fatalities.

And even more Americans — 86 percent — admitted to using a mobile device when driving for work over the same time period, according to the survey commissioned by Selective Insurance and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, which also found that more than half of those polled said they support stricter measures to prevent distracted driving as the number of people killed in such crashes topped 3,000 in the U.S. in 2020.

“This survey reveals the deadly and dangerous decisions by drivers contributing to this horrific fatality and injury toll,” said Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “The public understands this hazard and strongly supports numerous strategies to prevent distraction and its impacts, especially requiring advanced vehicle safety technologies in all new vehicles, which continues to be a top priority of Advocates.”

What’s more, almost a third of those who said they used a mobile device while driving for work had actually engaged in a video call while driving, the survey found — including former New York Council Member Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), who was caught last year zooming while on a Zoom call.

Among the other findings:

  • 73 percent said they talked, video called, or texted while driving
  • 45 percent said they checked social media or used an app
  • 30 percent said they took a photo
  • 25 percent said they checked or sent an email

“With more drivers back on the roads and the increasing popularity of virtual work and video calls, it’s more important than ever that employers develop and enforce distracted driving policies to keep employees and the general public safe on the roads,” said Brenda Hall of Selective Insurance.

The survey, conducted online earlier this month, polled 2,073 U.S. adults 18 years and older, of whom 1,848 were licensed drivers. The questions did not differentiate between using a handheld device, or texting while driving, and using a mounted cell phone or Bluetooth-linked device, as the legality of using mobile devices while driving differs across each state.

Image: Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
Image: Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

But the survey also found that traffic violence tragically affects everyone — nearly one-third of Americans said they personally had either been in a crash involving distracted driving due to using a mobile device, or know someone who was. Younger Americans, ages 18 to 44, were overwhelmingly more likely (46 percent) to be involved in, or know someone who had been involved in, a distracted driving-related crash, compared to Americans age 45 and older (18 percent).

And on the heels of the nationwide survey, which also found that the majority of Americans said they favor more robust policies to curb distracted driving — including 57 percent saying they support higher penalties and traffic fines — advocates are calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation to immediately address the rise in traffic violence caused by distracted driving, especially as April marks Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

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