Perceived Threat of Wireless Phone Use While Driving to Personal Safety

While virtually all drivers feel that eating or drinking (94%), using a wireless phone (97%), and looking at maps or directions (99%) while driving are at least a minor threat to their and their family's personal safety, there are big differences in perceived level of the threat. [Figure 11-A]

Looking at maps or directions while driving is felt to be the greatest threat, with seven out of ten drivers (70%) seeing this behavior by others as a major threat to their personal safety. Slightly more than half (52%) of drivers feel that others' cell phone use while driving is a major threat to their or their family's personal safety. In contrast, just over one-quarter (28%) feel that eating or drinking by others while driving is a major threat. An additional two-thirds (66%) see this behavior as a minor threat to their safety.

Figure 21 in Appendix B presents a comparison of the perceived threat of various driver distractions and other unsafe driving behaviors.

By Cell Phone Use

Not surprisingly, drivers who use a cell phone while driving perceive cell phone use by others as less of a threat to their safety as do non-users, with one in five drivers who use a cell phone while driving seeing this activity as a major threat. This is compared to 65% of drivers who do not use a cell phone for either incoming or outgoing calls. [Figure 11-B]

By Gender

Female drivers are much more likely to feel that cell phone use while driving is a major threat to their personal safety as do male drivers (57% compared to 48%), and slightly more likely to see others' map use as a major threat (72% versus 68%). Males are slightly more likely to feel that others' eating or drinking behavior is a major threat (30% compared to 26% for females). [Figure 11-C]

By Age

Younger drivers are least likely to feel that all of the measured driving behaviors are a major threat to their safety, with the perception of threat generally increasing with age. Just three out of ten drivers under age 21 feel that wireless phone use by others while driving poses a major threat, as compared to half or more of those in their 30s to mid-40s and 72% of those over age 64. There is less difference in perception on the threat of eating or drinking, with about one in five drivers under age 45 seeing this behavior as a major threat, compared to three out of ten drivers ages 46-64 and 52% of those over age 64. [Figure 11-D]