Chapter 3:  Perception of Impacts of Distracted Driving

While some groups would like to see a reduction of the potentially distracting behaviors measured in this study, if drivers do not perceive the actions to be distracting or to make driving more dangerous, it is unlikely that they will make changes in their driving behavior either voluntarily or as a result of legislation. This section provides information on the driving public’s attitudes regarding potentially distracting driving behaviors.  Specifically it covers the     following topics:

·         Perceived impacts of technology-based behaviors

·         Perceived impacts of non-technology-based behaviors

·         Perceived threat of distracted driving

·        Support of initiatives to reduce cell phone use while driving
 

Perceptions of Actions That Distract Drivers – Technology-Based Behaviors

Impact of Technology-Based Behaviors on Driving Safety

Although most drivers say they change radio stations or look for CDs or tapes while driving, just over one in three (36%) perceive this action to make driving more dangerous.  Just 18% think it makes driving much more dangerous. [Figure 9-A]

While about one in four drivers drive while talking on a wireless phone, the majority of drivers perceive this activity as making driving more dangerous (a “4” or “5” on the 1 to 5 scale of “no impact” to “much more dangerous”).  Two-thirds (66%) feel that taking incoming cell phone calls makes driving more dangerous, with 44% feeling it makes it much more dangerous.  Drivers are even more likely to feel that making outgoing calls makes driving more dangerous, with seven in ten (70%) seeing this as at least somewhat dangerous and 48% seeing it at as making driving much more dangerous.

Navigational and crash avoidance systems are intended to make driving safer by allowing drivers to travel to unfamiliar locations without flipping through printed maps and by alerting drivers of potential crash hazards, yet two in five (39%) drivers feel that use of such systems actually makes driving more dangerous.

Nearly seven out of every eight (86%) drivers believe that using wireless remote equipment (such as PDA, or access to wireless remote email) while driving makes driving more dangerous, with 63% saying it makes driving much more dangerous.  Two-thirds (66%) of drivers feel that answering or checking a pager makes driving more dangerous. 

By Gender and Age

Female drivers are more likely than males to believe that potentially distracting behaviors make driving more dangerous. Females are especially more likely to feel that answering or checking a beeper is distracting (74% as compared to 56% of males).  Male drivers are much more likely to engage in these types of behaviors than are females. [Figure 9-B]

Younger drivers are least likely to believe these behaviors make driving more dangerous, with the perception of danger increasing with age, though at least eight in ten drivers of all ages perceive remote Internet access while driving as dangerous.  Drivers over age 64 are much more likely than others to feel that adjusting music (58%) makes driving more dangerous (as compared to about one-third of younger drivers).  [Figure 9-C]

By Cell Phone Use

There is a substantial difference in the perception of the impact of cell phone use by cell phone ownership and use.  While more than eight in ten drivers who do not have a cell phone believe making outgoing or taking incoming calls makes driving more dangerous (83% and 86% respectively), just half (52%) of those with cell phones (whether they use them while driving or not) feel that taking incoming calls is dangerous, and 62% feel that making outgoing calls makes driving more dangerous.  [Figure 9-D]

Those who use cell phones while driving are even less likely to perceive the activity as dangerous, with just (37%) believing that taking incoming calls makes driving more dangerous, and 42% seeing outgoing calls as more dangerous. 

 

Perceptions of Actions That Distract Drivers –

Non-Technology-Based

Impact of Non-Technology-Based Behaviors on Driving Safety

Although the vast majority of drivers (81%) converse with passengers while driving, only 10%  of drivers believe that this activity distracts drivers and makes their driving more dangerous.  Similarly, while half of all drivers eat or drink while driving, just 31% feel that such behavior distracts drivers enough to make driving more dangerous.  [Figure 10-A]

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of drivers believe that dealing with children in the back seat makes driving more dangerous, with the majority of these (40% overall) seeing it as making driving much more dangerous.

While fewer drivers report engaging in other distracting behaviors while driving, such as reading printed materials (4%), looking at maps or directions (12%), or personal grooming (8%) these behaviors are perceived to make driving much more dangerous than the other activities more commonly engaged in. Eight out of ten drivers feel that looking at a map or directions (79%) or personal grooming (81%) makes driving more dangerous, with a majority feeling that these behaviors makes driving much more dangerous.

Drivers perceive reading printed materials (such as a book, newspapers, mail, or notes) while driving as most distracting, with 80% feeling this behavior makes driving much more dangerous and an additional 12% seeing it as somewhat distracting.

By Gender

While there are no differences in the perceptions of the impact of eating/drinking or personal grooming between male and female drivers, females are slightly more likely than males to feel that the talking with other passengers (12% vs. 9% of males) and looking at maps or directions (81% vs. 77%) make driving more dangerous. Female drivers are especially more likely to see dealing with children in the back seat as dangerous (69% vs. 61% of males).  [Figure 10-B]

By Age

Younger drivers are generally less likely to feel that the behaviors make driving more dangerous, with perceptions of behaviors being distracting increasing with age.  Drivers age 64 and older are twice as likely to feel that eating or drinking (57% compared to about one in four younger drivers) and talking with others (20% as compared to about 10% of others) make driving more dangerous. [Figure 10-C]

 


 

Perceived Threat of Distracted Driving

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]

 

 



 


Views on Initiatives to Curtail Cell Phone Use While Driving

Support for Initiatives

The study measured support for five potential initiatives to curtail cell phone use while driving.  A majority of all drivers would support each of the five actions, and even a majority of those who use cell phones while driving support several of the initiatives.  The greatest support is for increasing public awareness of the risks of wireless phone use while driving, with 88% supporting this initiative and just 12% saying they would oppose it.  [Figure 12-A]  Support is equally strong among in-car cell phone users and non-users.  [Figure 12-D]

Strong support is also reported for a restriction on using hand-held phones while driving, allowing hands-free models only (71%), and for insurance penalties for drivers involved in a crash while using a wireless phone (67%).

While about six in ten drivers would support a ban on all wireless phone use while driving (57%), or double or triple fines for traffic violations involving cell phone use (61%), support for these last two initiatives is lower among drivers overall and generally not supported by those who currently use cell phones.

By Gender

While female drivers are less likely to use a cell phone while driving, they are more likely than males to support all five of the measured potential initiatives to reduce cell phone use while driving. Female drivers are especially more likely to support a ban on all wireless phone use (61% compared to 52%) and higher fines for traffic violations where a cell phone was involved (65% compared to 57%).  [Figure 12-B]

By Age

Support for a ban on all cell phone use while driving and insurance penalties for being involved in a crash while using a cell phone increases significantly with age of the driver.  Drivers under age 30 are also much less likely than drivers over 30 to support double or triple fines for traffic violations when a cell phone is involved (46% compared to about 66% of older drivers).  There is not a substantial difference by age in support for increased public awareness or restrictions to using hands-free models only. [Figure 12-C]

By Cell Phone Use

While drivers who use cell phones while driving are equally likely to support public awareness initiatives as non-users, and a majority would support a hands-free restriction, only about 25% would support a total ban on cell phone use while driving (as compared to 69% of those who do not talk on phones while driving).  Cell phone users are also significantly less likely than non-users to support monetary fines (about 40% do compared to 70% of non-users) and insurance penalties (about 49% do as compared to 75%). [Figure 12-D]


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