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Most Drivers With Cell Phones Use Them While Driving Even Though They Know It Is Unsafe; More Than One In Five Text While Driving

NEW YORK July 20, 2011

http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20100517/NY06256LOGO

Several studies have shown that drivers who use cell phones while driving are much more likely to be involved with accidents, and it is believed that texting is even more dangerous. Recent research has shown that both hand held and hands-free cell phones are almost equally dangerous because they are equally likely to distract drivers.  However, more than three quarters (77%) of the public believe that hands-free phones are safer.

The Harris Poll between June 13 and 20, 2011 Harris Interactive

Other interesting findings of this survey include:

  • There are big generational differences.  The younger age groups, Echo Boomers, aged 18-34 (72%) and Gen Xers, aged 35-46 (69%) are more likely to use cell  phones while driving than Baby Boomers, aged 47-65 (59%), and much more likely than drivers over 65 (32%) to do so;
  • The Lake Wobegon effect ("where all the children are above average") is alive and well. Most (57%) drivers rate themselves as better than average drivers.  Only 1% rate themselves as worse than average.  Men (66%) are much more likely than women (48%) to think that they are better than average drivers;
  • Texting while driving is also much more common among younger drivers. Fully 49% of drivers with cell phones under 35 send or read text messages while driving compared to only 24% of Gen X, 11% of Baby Boomers and less than 1% of people over 65;
  • Most (60%) drivers who use cell phones while driving use hand-held phones. This number has declined from 72% in 2006 and 66% in 2009;
  • The large majority who know that it is dangerous to use a cell phone while driving has increased from 82% in 2006 to 91% now; and,
  • The percentage of the public who live in states that require (or, which they believe, require) the use of hands-free phones has increased from 14% in 2006 to 38% now.

So What?

The implications of these findings point to several important conclusions:

Most drivers with cell phones are behaving in ways (talking on cell phones and/or reading or sending texts) that greatly increase the likelihood that they will be involved in accidents, and injure themselves and others.  Furthermore, many of them believe, probably wrongly, that if they use hands-free phones they are safer.   The problem may be made worse by the fact that most drivers think they are better than average drivers and, perhaps, that their driving skills can keep them out of trouble.

These findings strongly suggest the need for laws to ban all cell phone use and texting while driving, including the use of hands-free phones, except perhaps in emergencies.

TABLE 1A

FREQUENCY OF TALKING ON CELL PHONE WHILE DRIVING – TREND SINCE 2006

"How often do you talk on a cell phone while you are driving?"

Base: Adults who drive and have a cell phone

2006

May

2009

June

2011

%

%

%

Talk on Cell Phone While Driving (NET)

73

72

60

All the time

6

10

5

Sometimes

67

62

55

Never

27

28

40

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

TABLE 1B

FREQUENCY OF TALKING ON CELL PHONE W HILE DRIVING- BY AGE AND ABILITY

"How often do you talk on a cell phone while you are driving?"

Base: Adults who drive and have a cell phone

Total

Generation

Type of driver

Echo

Boomers

(18-34)

Gen. X

(35-46)

Baby

Boomers

(47-65)

Matures

(66+)

Better

than

average

Average

Worse

than

average

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Talk on Cell Phone While Driving (NET)

60

72

69

59

32

62

59

38

All the time

5

11

6

3

*

7

3

4

Sometimes

55

61

64

56

31

55

56

34

Never

40

28

31

41

68

38

41

62

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding; * signifies less than .05%

TABLE 2

FREQUENCY OF SENDING OR RECEIVING TEXT MESSA GES ON CELL PHONE WHILE DRIVING

How often do you send or read texts on a cell phone while you are driving?"

Base: Those who drive and have a cell phone

May 2009

June 2011

Generation

Type of driver

Echo

Boomers

(18-34)

Gen. X

(35-46)

Baby

Boomers

(47-65)

Matures

(66+)

Better

than

average

Average

Worse

than

average

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

All the time

5

2

7

1

*

2

2

4

Sometimes

22

20

42

23

11

*

20

19

20

Never

74

78

51

76

89

100

78

79

76

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding; * signifies less than .05%

TABLE 3

HOLD CELL PHONE OR USE HANDS-FREE DEVICE WHILE DRIVING – TREND

"When you use the cell phone while you are driving, do you typically hold the phone in your hand or do you use a hands-free device?"

Base: Adults who ever talk on a cell phone while driving

2006

May

2009

June

2011

%

%

%

Hold phone

72

66

60

Hands-free device

28

34

40

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

TABLE 4

FREQUENCY OF BEING PASSENGER WHILE DRIVER IS TALKING ON CELL PHONE – TREND

"How often are you a passenger in a car while the driver is talking on a cell phone?"

Base: All adults

2006

May

2009

June

2011

%

%

%

Often

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