Are Millennials the Worst Drivers?
Are Milliennials the worst drivers? Do they pose the biggest safety risk of any demographic behind the wheel? As the use of smartphones and other technology has become pervasive over the 15 years, distracted driving and its dangers have increasingly come into focus. Multiple studies have demonstrated the dangers of distracted driving. Recently, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a study with drivers of different age groups and found that millennials who were ages 19 to 24 engaged in the riskiest driving behaviors, and some of those behaviors were directly related to technology use while driving. When people engage in dangerous driving behaviors such as texting and driving, they place both themselves and others at risk of severe injuries in accidents.
The researchers surveyed 2,511 licensed drivers who were ages 16 and older, asking them a number of questions about various risky driving behaviors as well as the views that the drivers had about different acts of dangerous driving. Eighty-eight percent of the drivers who were ages 19 to 24 admitted to engaging in one or more risky driving practices within the 30 days prior to the survey. The behaviors included using cellphones while driving, running red lights, speeding and impaired driving. Drivers ages 19 to 24 were 1.6 times more likely to read text messages while driving as compared to drivers in other age groups with 66.1 percent admitting to doing so. The younger millennials also were twice as likely to send text messages while driving with 59.3 percent admitting to doing so at least once in the prior month.
The results of the survey demonstrating the use of cellphones and other technology while driving among younger millennials are especially alarming when they are combined with the results for other risky driving behaviors among that age group. Almost 12 percent of drivers in that age group reported that they believed it was okay to drive 10 mph over the speed limit when traveling through school zones. Members of the age group were 1.4 times more likely to have driven 10 mph over the speed limit in the previous 30 days than were other drivers. Almost half of the drivers ages 19 to 24 admitted to running a red light at least once in the prior month even when it was safe for them to stop, and almost 14 percent reported that they thought it was acceptable to do so. When taken together, the results of the survey paint a picture of young drivers engaging in numerous high-risk driving behaviors in addition to distracted driving, making the results especially alarming.
Why distracted driving is dangerous
According to traffic safety experts, there are three types of distraction involved with distracted driving, including visual, cognitive and manual distraction. Each of these types is dangerous alone, and texting while driving is especially dangerous because it involves all three types of distraction at once. Drivers who look away from the road to read messages have their attention visually distracted away from the road. They are also cognitively distracted when they attend to reading the messages, and manipulating their phones involves removing their hands from the wheels of their vehicles. The National Safety Council estimates that 26 percent of all accidents can be attributed to drivers texting or talking on their cell phones while they are driving.
In another study, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 90 percent of drivers of all ages reported that using cell phones while driving is unacceptable and dangerous, but 35 percent admitted to doing so themselves. Traffic fatalities have also been increasing. In 2016, the National Safety Council reported that 40,200 people were killed in accidents in the U.S. This was an increase of 6 percent over the number of people who were killed in traffic accidents 2015 and of 13 percent since 2014. While part of the increase may be attributed to more people traveling on the roads, some of it may also be attributed to an increase in distracted driving. The California Highway Patrol reported that more people in California are texting while driving than previously, pointing to it as contributing to the accident fatality rate increases in the state since 2010.