Study: Adults Talk & Text While Driving, Even Though They Know Better

June 20, 2014

In theory, adults are wiser than children. They've had more life experiences, they've seen ups and downs, they know what's good for them and, presumably, what's not.

That's why we tend to focus our energies on warning teens about the dangers of distracted driving, rather than their parents. We figure mom and dad know better.

They don't. And a recent poll from Harris proves it. Again.

To gather its data, Harris conducted on online survey of 2,045 adults between May 27 and 29, 2014. Here are just a few of the firm's major findings:

Drinking and driving: The vast majority of adults -- 94 percent, in fact -- believe that trying to drive after consuming three or more alcoholic beverages is dangerous or very dangerous. And 68 percent set an even lower threshold, seeing a danger after just one or two drinks.

Yet 37 percent of drinkers say they've driven when they've drunk too much. And 30 percent say that if they've been drinking heavily, they're more likely to slide behind the wheel, so long as the drive home isn't long.

Texting and driving: A whopping 94 percent of Americans also think that sending texts while driving is dangerous or very dangerous, and 91 percent believe it's dangerous even to read messages. (At stop lights, however, adults are split: 51 percent say it's okay to check texts then, 49 percent say it's not.) 

And yet, 45 percent of those surveyed admit to reading text messages on the road, and 37 percent admit to sending them. More than one-third -- 37 percent -- say that they've looked up information while driving.

Talking and driving: Though chatting might not seem as distracting as texting, something inside most adults tells them it's bad to do while driving. All told, 69 percent agree that it's dangerous to talk on a hand-held cell phone behind the wheel. (Less than half that number -- 36 percent -- feel the same about chats on hand-free devices, even though several studies suggest that the conversation is the problem, not the device that enables it.)

Despite those numbers, the overwhelming majority of adults still talk on the phone while driving. Roughly 74 percent admit to doing so, and 21 percent say that they do so frequently.

Though Harris' sample size isn't huge, the survey's results are in line with studies we've discussed before. One of those confirmed that 49 percent of adult drivers send text messages during their daily commutes, and another said that 24 percent surf the web behind the wheel. Worse, most of those numbers are rising.

Translation: If autonomous vehicles don't save us from ourselves within the next decade or so, we may be one less species for global warming to wipe out. 

There's a lot more data included in the Harris survey. If you have time this Friday, you can pore over all the charts and tables here


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