New NSC survey shows that, despite the risks, many people unwilling to curb distracted driving behaviors

Photo: porcorex/iStockphoto

Itasca, IL — More people are willing to wear a facemask in public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 than obey state laws prohibiting cellphone use while driving to help make our roads safer, results of a recent survey show.

Market research firm Irwin Broh Research, on behalf of the National Safety Council and TRUCE Software, in September surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. drivers at least 25 years old. They found that 76% of the respondents are “very willing” to wear a mask in public, but only 62% are very willing to obey state laws that prohibit cellphone use behind the wheel.

Most of the respondents indicated that laws aren’t enough to keep them from driving distracted: 61% would need to be involved in a near miss, and 59% would have to be involved in a fatal crash. However, 56% said they believe employer policies are effective distracted driving deterrents.

Other key findings:

  • 81% of respondents said they’ve seen other drivers almost cause a crash because they were distracted.
  • Nearly 14% said they’d participate in video chats or watch streaming videos behind the wheel if laws prohibiting it didn’t exist.
  • 32% believe they can use their phone safely as long as they pay attention to the road.
  • If their vehicle came preset with solutions to eliminate distraction while driving, 43% said they would turn off the features.

The survey results were released during Distracted Driving Awareness Month – observed each April for the past decade but postponed until October this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The council notes in an Oct. 6 press release that the findings highlight a long-standing behavior change dilemma: “Many people will rightly take steps to mitigate immediate risks to their safety – especially if they believe the measure will be temporary, such as wearing a mask – but widespread behavior change that can drive down chronic safety incidents, such as motor vehicle crashes, often takes much longer.”

NSC and TRUCE – a company dedicated to decreasing workplace distraction and improving worker safety – urge employers to enact distracted driving policies to compensate for many drivers’ unwillingness to adhere to state laws. Further, the organizations encourage employers to promote a safe driving culture because, according to 46% of the survey respondents, “demands or pressure from work” often leads them to glance at, read or send emails while driving.

“Clearly, we continue to accept crashes and near misses as the cost of connectivity,” NSC President and CEO Lorraine M. Martin said in the release. “As we mark the 10-year anniversary of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, we must commit to improvement – particularly with a national pandemic compounding traffic safety even further. Saving lives will mean disconnecting behind the wheel once and for all so everyone can arrive at their destination safely.”

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)