Distracted driving resulted in the deaths of over 3,100 people in 2019, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This was up nearly 10% from 2018.
This steep increase appears to be related to our increasing dependence on our cell phones and the distractions that come from having our phones with us at all times. And this appears to be a generational problem. Younger generations, Millennials and Gen Z, are more reliant on their phones than older generations, Gen X and Baby Boomers.
83% of Millennials and Gen Z say they check their phones at least once every hour. This makes them 23% more likely than older generations to check their phones every hour.
Cell phones have become a distraction, and they’re causing drivers (Millennial and Gen Z drivers in particular) to exhibit dangerous driving behaviors.
Phones Have Become a Distraction
61% of Americans admit to being more distracted in their daily lives as a result of smartphone usage. The percentage is greater among Millennials and Gen Z, with 68% of respondents in those age groups reporting being distracted, compared to just 58% of respondents from the Gen X and Boomer generations.
What daily tasks are we doing on our phones that are distracting us from real life? We’re:
Looking up information online (75% of those surveyed)
Checking in on social media (72%)
Reading and sending emails (68%)
Checking the weather (66%)
Reading the news (63%)
Getting directions (61%)
Using Phones While Driving is Dangerously Common
How many times have you yelled at another driver to get off their phone and pay attention to the road? And how many times have you been guilty of using your phone while driving?
We all know that using a phone while driving is dangerous, and we all hate when other drivers do it. Yet 68% of Americans admit to using their phones while driving. The percentage is markedly higher for younger generations than for older. Drivers in the Millennial and Gen Z generations are 16% more likely to use phones while driving than drivers in the Boomer and Gen X generations.
Half of Americans report being more distracted while driving today than they were five years ago. And younger generations appear to be disproportionately more distracted. Millennials and Gen Z are 32% more likely than older generations to blame their heightened distraction behind the wheel to their phones.
Six out of ten Millennial/Gen Z drivers admit to reading texts while driving. Reading texts while driving is particularly dangerous as it requires you to take your eyes off the road. Taking your eyes off the road for even a moment can have deadly consequences, especially when traveling at high speeds.
Millennials and Gen Z are Getting Caught Using Phones Behind the Wheel
Millennials and Gen Z aren’t just using their phones while driving, they’re also getting caught and getting ticketed.
With phone usage causing so many fatal accidents, traffic enforcement is watching closely for drivers who are using their phones. And more often than not, the drivers that police are catching on their phones belong to the younger generations. In fact, drivers in the Boomer and Gen X generations were 62% less likely to receive traffic tickets due to phone distraction than drivers in the Millennial and Gen Z generations.
1/3 of Millennial and Gen Z drivers who received a ticket admit that they were texting when they received their violation. Typing a text is even more dangerous than reading a text because it requires more focus on more time with your eyes on the screen.
The silver lining is that tickets appear to be a fairly effective deterrent from ongoing texting-and-driving offenses.
Of those who received a traffic ticket:
60% reported going several months before receiving another ticket,
69% reported going years before receiving another ticket, and
38% have not received another traffic violation since that first ticket.
What Millennials and Gen Z Can Do to Improve Driving Behaviors
There are several things Millennial and Gen Z drivers can do to improve their driving behaviors and make our streets safer for everyone.
Turn off notifications while driving to avoid distractions.
Turn your phone off completely while driving.
Use an app that locks your phone when your vehicle is running.
Keep your phone out of reach when you’re driving. You can leave the phone in the backseat, or even in the trunk of the vehicle. If you physically can’t reach it, you won’t be tempted to use it.
Enroll in an online defensive driving course. Not only will you learn how to avoid distractions, but you’ll also learn defensive driving techniques to make you a safer driver. Taking a course could even earn you a discount on your car insurance premium!
Cell phones provide exceptional utility but have also become a distraction in our daily lives. Millennials and Gen Z are particularly susceptible to cell phone distractions because they came of age during the tech revolution and are more likely to use tech regularly than older generations.
Using a phone while driving is dangerous and costs thousands of lives each year. The percentage of people who use a phone while driving is disturbingly high across all age groups. But it’s particularly high among Millennial and Gen Z drivers.
Police are enforcing distracted driving laws. Younger generations are more likely than older generations to receive a traffic ticket for using a phone while driving. Receiving a ticket seems to deter drivers from repeating the dangerous driving behavior that resulted in the ticket.
Drivers of all ages can improve their driving and make roads safer by avoiding distractions. This might mean physically or digitally removing your phone from your possession while driving. Defensive driving courses are also an effective tool for improving driving habits and keeping yourself, your passengers, and all others sharing the road safer.