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New Study Finds American Millennials are Worst Offenders of Phone Use Behind the Wheel

In a new study by Liberty Mutual, 86 percent of Millennials in the U.S. admitted to having used their phone while driving.

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A new global driving study by Liberty Mutual Insurance has found that Millennial drivers need a crash course in Driving Safety 101. 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 nearly 30 percent higher than the average of U.S. respondents.

The global study of 8,010 drivers looked at driving habits across Western Europe (France, England, Ireland, Spain and Portugal) and found that 73 percent of Millennials from those countries have used their phone while driving as well. However, U.S. Millennials consistently owned up to phone use and other dangerous driving habits at significantly higher rates than their Western European peers.

In the study, two-thirds of U.S. Millennials (67 percent) admitted to having their phone visible while driving, ultimately making it easier to glance at incoming calls and texts or reach for the phone to send emails. In fact, 53 percent of U.S. Millennials send emails or texts behind the wheel, which is 20 percentage points higher than Western European Millennials.

“The influence of the global tech culture is more evident now than ever before as drivers increasingly feel the need to glance, check or interact with their phone while driving,” said Mike Sample, MS, CSP, lead driving safety expert and technical consultant at Liberty Mutual. “However, using your phone behind the wheel does not get less risky the more you do it. You’re still putting yourself and other drivers on the road at risk of having an accident.”

Generationally in the U.S., Millennial phone use is nearly double the rate of Boomers and noticeably higher than Generation X as well. There is also a significant generational gap when looking at dangerous driving behaviors. In the U.S., 47 percent of Millennials admitted to driving aggressively versus 22 percent of Boomers. A majority (63 percent) of Millennials also multi-task behind the wheel, including eating or applying makeup, compared to only 54 percent of Generation X and 37 percent of Boomers.

When comparing each region’s drivers side-by-side, the Liberty Mutual Insurance study also found that Americans are driving dangerously and notably doing so more often than Western Europeans. 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. 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. While 67 percent of Americans and 60 percent of Western Europeans have used their phone while driving, both admit 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? 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).

“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,” said Sample. “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.” 

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