Man driving car and looking at mirror for reverse

Distracted Driving: How Distracted Are American Drivers on the Road?

By the Mercury Team

In an era dominated by hand-held technology, social media, and constant connectivity, it’s no wonder so many Americans are distracted behind the wheel — and the consequences can be deadly. According to the most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 3,500 people lost their lives in 2021 due to car accidents caused by distracted driving.

In October 2023, Mercury Insurance conducted a survey about distracted driving habits, collecting insights from 1,000 active U.S. drivers. The data collected reveals the prevalence of modern-day distractions and the behaviors that unfold behind the wheel, hopefully serving as a wake-up call for drivers to prioritize safer driving habits.

Key Survey Insights:

  • 26% of active drivers have either come close or been in an accident due to texting and driving
  • 66% of active drivers admit to using their phone while driving
  • 67% of active drivers do not wait until they’ve reached their destination before checking phone notifications
  • 86% of of active drivers think people are more distracted while driving compared to five years ago
  • 58% of active drivers are less likely to be on their phones when they have passengers in the car
  • 48% of active drivers have been distracted by their navigational system

How distracted are we on the road chart

How Distracted Are American Drivers on the Road?

Unsurprisingly, smartphones are one of the biggest culprits of distracted driving. A concerning 66% of drivers confess to using their phones while driving, whether to text, check social media, or play DJ. An alarming 1 in 4 drivers use their phones to scroll through their music library while driving, and 67% don’t wait until they’ve reached their destination before checking phone notifications.

This bad habit poses a dangerous risk for drivers as it diverts attention away from the task they should be doing — focusing on the road. Unfortunately, this negligence may lead to an accident. The survey revealed over 1 in 4 American drivers have either come dangerously close to or been involved in an accident due to texting behind the wheel.

In some cases, drivers don’t even drive with two hands, instead steering with their knees. Approximately 18% of drivers admit to frequently taking their hands off the steering wheel to perform other tasks while driving, posing a serious risk to their safety and the safety of others on the road.

The survey found that one in four drivers have been pulled over for distracted driving. While this insight suggests law enforcement is making some strides to curb distracted driving, the majority of drivers haven’t been pulled over for distracted driving. Still, drivers shouldn’t have a police officer tell them that texting, scrolling through TikTok, or updating their road trip playlist while driving is unsafe in the first place.

Americans distracted driving habits chart

More Insights on Americans’ Distracted Driving Habits

Social media platforms, particularly Facebook, play a significant role in distracting drivers on the road. In the survey, 30% of drivers who use their phones while driving reveal that Facebook is their most commonly accessed app, followed closely by TikTok and Instagram.

Navigational systems are another source of distraction for drivers. While these tools are often essential for navigating streets and highways, the constant stream of real-time information they provide can draw attention away from the road ahead, as 48% of respondents have been distracted by their navigational system.

To help minimize distractions, many modern cars come equipped with hands-free technology designed to enhance safety by allowing drivers to stay connected without taking their hands off the wheel. In fact, 74% of respondents say they’ve replied to texts using hands-free devices. While these technologies may assist in keeping both hands on the wheel, they may not completely eliminate the potential for distracted driving accidents since they’re still participating in activities that divert attention from driving.

Interestingly, the presence of passengers appears to positively influence driver behavior. Around 85% of respondents report being less likely to use their phones when passengers are in the car, suggesting that the social dynamics of shared responsibility contribute to a more focused driving experience.

Despite these distracted driving habits, American drivers are relatively confident in their driving ability. In the survey, 80% of American drivers rate their own driving skills as an eight or above out of 10. While a majority of drivers are self-assured in their driving, they’re not oblivious to the impact of distracted driving. A resounding 86% of respondents believe that people are more distracted while driving compared to five years ago.

Americans top 10 distracted driving habits chart

Revealing The Top Distracted Driving Habits

The survey also asked drivers to select all distracted driving habits they actively participate in. Next, driving habits were ranked by the percentage of drivers who practice them.

With over 60% of drivers admitting to it, answering or making phone calls is the top distracted driving habit. Eating, texting, and looking at objects on the road were also up there.

For example, petting your dog or fixing your hair seem innocuous, but they take your hands off the wheel and keep your eyes away from the road, which could lead to a potential car accident. Other habits, like watching videos on your phone or scrolling through your feed, are just plain dangerous and can be easily avoided. By understanding the prevalence of these habits, drivers can develop safer driving behaviors and cultivate a culture of responsibility on American roads.

As distracted driving continues to be a pressing issue in the United States, it’s crucial for drivers to change their habits and prioritize safe driving over distractions to ensure a safer environment for everyone on the road. Still, accidents can happen, even if you are a good, attentive driver. That’s why you need reliable auto insurance from Mercury, where we provide best-in-class coverage at an affordable rate. Talk with an insurance agent today, and they can help customize an insurance policy tailored to your needs.

Mercury Team

The Mercury Marketing Team is made up of professionals in the fields of Content Creation, Public Relations and Social Media. The team works together to deliver professionally written and researched content to provide information for consumers.

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