55 Percent Of Drivers Admit to Checking Social Media Behind the Wheel, Study Finds

Credit: DriversEd.com
April is Distracted Driving Awareness month, a time to highlight the very real dangers of driving distracted on our nation’s roads.

The first thing we all tend to think of when we think of distracted driving is texting or talking on a cellphone, but it can also mean looking for a radio station or engaging in various systems of your car’s infotainment system or things like putting on makeup, eating, or talking with other people in the car.

All of the above can distract a driver from his or her task behind the wheel.

Safety Stats

  • According to the nonprofit National Safety Council, every day at least nine Americans are killed and 100 are injured in distracted driving crashes.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is running a U Text. U Drive. U Pay campaign, gives a larger perspective. It reports that between 2012-2017, nearly 20,000 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver.
    • NHTSA also reports that women drivers with a cell phone have been more likely to be involved in fatal distracted driving crashes as compared to male drivers every year since 2012.
  • NHTSA also reports that texting while driving is especially problematic among younger drivers. In 2017, 8 percent of people killed in teen (15-19) driving crashes died when the teen drivers were distracted at the times of the crashes.

DriversEd.com report

Other disturbing stats come from a new 2019 Distracted Driving and Social Media report conducted by DriversEd.com, the leading online driving school. Its survey data found that:

  • 55% of U.S. drivers admit to checking social media while behind the wheel.
  • 68% of Americans say they have caught their driver checking social media
  • 35% say they have caught their driver watching a video

Read the full DriversEd.com’s article below for study results as well as tips to combat distracted driving. It is republished with permission.

Pledge to Put Your #phonedown During Distracted Driving Awareness Month

By Drivers-Ed Staff | Published: March 28, 2019

In 2016, California teen Amanda Clark was on the phone when her Chevrolet Trailblazer rolled three times, landing on its roof. According to the Sacramento Bee, Clark wrote about her near-death experience. “I hate the thought of dying without my family knowing how I felt about them,” she wrote.

Yet one year later, Clark was in a second auto accident. She was driving while on the phone again and lost control of her car. Cellphone records showed that she was texting. She was found unresponsive at the scene and died the next day.

These stories of distracted driving are becoming more common among U.S. drivers, sadly. Drivers continue to pick up their cellphones—for social media reasons, nonetheless—while behind the wheel, removing their attention from what’s happening around them to focus on a five-inch screen.

As April’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month arrives, DriversEd.com has released new survey data in its 2019 Distracted Driving and Social Media Report. The most alarming findings: 55% of surveyed participants admit to checking social media while behind the wheel and 25% said they’ve even recorded a video while behind the wheel.

“There’s no way around it: the data is startling. I wish I could say the solution is as simple as parents talking to their teen drivers about the dangers of distracted driving. But parents are also the ones checking their Facebook, watching YouTube videos and recording Instagram videos,” said Laura Adams, safety and education analyst at DriversEd.com. “We are in an ever-growing distracted driving crisis, and the consequences are deadly.

“For many drivers, health and safety take a backseat to their likes and shares,” added Adams.

Why is this still so prevalent?

Part of the problem actually has to do with hearing those scary statistics: we don’t really believe they apply to us. It’s a phenomenon that cognitive scientist Tali Sharot named The Optimism Bias. Basically, when people think about their own futures, they tend to overestimate the likelihood that good things will happen and underestimate the likelihood of bad things. In the context of driving, that means we overestimate our own capabilities. In fact, one study showed that 93% of U.S. drivers think that they’re in the top 50% of safe drivers. Thus, drivers also underestimate their likelihood of being in a car accident. This would explain why so many drivers will agree that texting while driving is bad but admit to doing it anyway: we know it’s dangerous in general, but we don’t quite grasp how much of a risk it is to ourselves specifically.

Take it from a teen…

Grace Keller, a former DriversEd.com student and guest teen contributor, suggested drivers keep their belongings, including cellphones, in other parts of the car to avoid distracted driving behavior.
“I usually throw my backpack in the back seat with my phone and all my other potential distractions in it, so that I don’t even become tempted. Though I admit it can be difficult — I mean, we’re all living in a very high-tech society where we feel the need to constantly be plugged into our social media, group-chats, etc., but whatever it is you need to look at or check up on can wait,” she stated.

How you can help

The National Safety Council is asking the public to use these life-saving measures to help curb the growing rates of distracted driving–related injuries and fatalities:

  1. Commit to putting your #phonedown. Stow your cellphone in your purse, backpack, or trunk to keep it out of reach. If it’s needed for GPS use, switch to “auto mode” to turn off notifications and calls.
  2. Stay engaged in teens’ driving habits. Parents should lead by example by putting their phones down. Head to “Parents: Tools to help your teen resist using their phones,” on DriversEd.com for more parent-focused information.
  3. Practice defensive driving. Buckle up and keep in-car distractions (passengers, music, etc.) at a minimum to focus on the road ahead. Be sure to get enough sleep to avoid fatigue and drive attentively.
  4. Recognize the dangers of drugged driving. From prescription opioids to alcohol to marijuana use, learn how each one impairs your ability to drive safely. Visit www.stopeverydaykillers.org to learn more.
  5. Fix recalls immediately. See if your vehicle is currently under recall by visiting www.checktoprotect.org.
  6. Ask lawmakers and state leaders to protect travelers on state roadways. The National Safety Council’s State of Safety report shows which states have the strongest and weakest traffic safety laws.

The 2019 Distracted Driving and Social Media Report was conducted by DriversEd.com as a follow-up to its more broadly focused 2018 Distracted Driving in America Report and zeroes in on risky behind-the-wheel social media behavior: feed checking, video watching, and video recording, providing insight on the current state—and dangers—of distracted driving and social media use.
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