Poll Finds Most Americans Believe Distracted Driving Top Reason for Crashes

Knowing the dangers doesn't seem to stop motorists from using their cell phones to text and talk while behind the wheel, insurers' group says.

Anti-texting billboard, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Education Images—UIG via Getty Images

An overwhelming majority, or 92 percent, of the more than 2,000 U.S. adults polled listed distracted driving as the number one factor in an increase in car accidents across the U.S.

The new survey, conducted online by Harris Poll and commissioned by Property Casualty Insurers, or PCI, is evidence that motorists are aware of the risks posed by distracted driving, yet anecdotally, knowledge doesn't stop the dangerous behavior.

As Bob Passmore, assistant vice president of personal lines policy at the trade association puts it: “It’s all around us, everywhere you look people are texting, talking, surfing the web, and scrolling through social media on their smartphones while driving or walking.”

In fact, fatalities on U.S. roads linked to distracted driving declined a bit, even as driving deaths increased for two years straight, with federal statistics showing an increasing number of elderly drivers involved in the fatalities.

But there is also evidence that elderly drivers, those 65 and older, are also distracted by texting and other cell phone-related activities. 

"As older adults embrace technology, distracted driving -- in particular, using cell phones behind the wheel -- is prevalent among them as well," found researchers involved in a survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of California San Diego.

They found a majority of drivers 65 and older, or almost 60 percent, had used cell phones while driving, including to make and receive calls and to text. More than a quarter did so with a minor in the car. 

PCI said distractions are especially prevalent during the holidays, increasing risks for everyone on the road. 

"The hustle and bustle on the roads, on sidewalks, and in parking lots at this time of year create more risks for accidents,” said Passmore. “Whether you’re running errands locally or taking a holiday road trip, it’s important to take a few extra seconds to send any last-minute messages or check apps, and then put your phone down and collect your thoughts before you start driving."