With school back in session in some districts and in all areas beginning next week, a timely new study from Liberty Mutual Insurance shows we all might need to go back to driving school, especially the Millennial generation.
The insurance company says the report card is in: Americans are driving dangerously and doing so more often than Western Europeans according to their new global study.
The study of 8,010 drivers found that nearly half of U.S. drivers (47-percent) engage in dangerous driving behaviors such as speeding and multi-tasking versus 39-percent of those behind the wheel in Western Europe (France, England, Ireland, Spain and Portugal). In fact, more than a third (38-percent) of U.S. respondents admit to regularly speeding compared to 30-percent of Western Europe’s drivers.
One of the most troubling statistics continues to be phone use, with 67-percent of Americans and 60-percent of Western Europeans reporting that they have used their phone while driving in a way that takes their attention and hands off of the wheel such as texting, reading emails or using apps. Both sets of drivers admitted to using their phone more while stopped at a red light or stop sign, with Americans reporting higher rates of reading and sending emails or texts.
A reason for the bad behaviors behind the wheel? Everybody is running late. U.S. drivers say a top reason for running late is poor time management on their part (39-percent), while Western Europeans claim it’s more likely something out of their control, such as something that came up last minute (34-percent). When under a time crunch, Americans more frequently take part in dangerous driving behaviors like speeding (51-percent) and not stopping at stop signs (23-percent) than Western Europeans (40-percent and 17-percent, respectively).
Mike Sample is Lead Driving Safety Expert & Technical Consultant at Liberty Mutual. He says, “Driving under stress, whether it’s the stress of getting to your destination on time or the need to be ‘always-on’ and reachable for others, has an undeniable impact on your driving.” Sample adds, “Even a rolling stop or quick glance away from the road can impair your ability to get from Point A to Point B safely. It’s crucial for drivers to take action to curb this behavior and help make the roadways safer for everyone.”
The influence of the always-on, global tech culture is evident across both regions, especially for Millennials (aged 23 to 38 years old). While nearly half of Millennials surveyed agree that their phone is a major distraction behind the wheel, phone use is still rampant with 86-percent of Millennials in the U.S. admitting to having used their phone while driving – that’s 28-percent more than the national average – and not far behind are 73-percent of Millennials from Western Europe. That behavior includes everything from glancing at incoming calls and texts to reading and sending emails.
Notably, Millennial phone use is nearly double the rate of Boomers – 49-percent in the U.S. and 42-percent in Western Europe said they’ve used their phone while driving. The trend continues when it comes to sending emails or texting with only 11-percent of U.S. Boomers and 7-percent of Western Europeans admitting to doing so.
Millennials reported dangerous driving habits as well, such as speeding, multi-tasking and driving aggressively, often at higher rates than Generation X and significantly more than Boomers. In the U.S., 47-percent of Millennials admitted to driving aggressively versus 22-percent of Boomers, and similarly in Western Europe, 45-percent of Millennials drive aggressively compared to 31-percent of Boomers.
Sample says, “No matter your age or location, it’s crucial for motorists to engage in safe driving behaviors to avoid accidents and near misses.” He offers the following tips to help encourage safe driving behaviors:
- Avoid the Phone: In the survey, two-thirds of U.S. Millennials (67-percent) admitted to keeping their phone visible while driving. Drivers should make it a habit to put their phone somewhere out of sight like the glove box or trunk, or activate the Do Not Disturb feature, to avoid the temptation to reach for it. No matter how much driving experience someone has, their field of vision is decreased when using their phone. Drivers should always pull over to a safe location and put their car in park before using it to avoid putting themselves and others at risk.
- Plan Ahead: Running late often leads to speeding but going even 10 MPH over the limit greatly increases risk behind the wheel. It takes the driver longer to stop the car and react to changes on the road. Drivers should plan to leave the house 10 minutes early to avoid feeling the need to speed. Leaving early allows the driver to drive safely while also arriving at their destination with a clear, relaxed mind.
- Practice Defensive Driving: It’s important to stay aware of what other drivers are doing and be ready to react. To help do so, drivers should leave 1-second of following distance for every ten miles an hour. That means if a driver is going 55 MPH they should leave 6 seconds of following distance between them and the car in front of them, so if something happens, they have time to react or stop.
Liberty Mutual Insurance conducted a quantitative survey that examined driving attitudes and behaviors across the United States and Western Europe (including Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, and England). The survey was conducted in April of 2019, among 3,006 Americans and 5,004 Western Europeans all over the age of 18. Overall the findings from the Safe Driving Study can be interpreted at a 95-percent confidence interval.
Liberty Mutual’s purpose is to help people embrace today and confidently pursue tomorrow. They say, “The promise we make to our customers throughout the world is to provide protection for the unexpected, delivered with care.” In business since 1912, and headquartered in Boston, they are the fifth largest global property and casualty insurer based on 2018 gross written premium. They rank 75th on the Fortune 100 list of largest corporations in the U.S. based on 2018 revenue. Liberty employs nearly 50,000 people in 30 countries and economies around the world.