09:32 AM

Bad driving has Americans on edge

New Nationwide survey indicates drivers think roads are more dangerous today than before the pandemic

The roadways changed drastically at the onset of the pandemic, even with fewer drivers on the road, traffic deaths have soared throughout the pandemic. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, despite miles driven declining by 11%, there was a 6.8% increase in fatalities from motor vehicle crashes in 2020.

The problem continued to get worse as people returned to the roadways with fatalities increasing 12% through the first nine months of 2021. Despite a decrease in miles driven, accidents are likely to be more severe – even fatal – from reckless driving behaviors like speeding or not wearing a seatbelt.

As we enter Distracted Driving Awareness Month, a new study from Nationwide found drivers are practicing poor driving behavior despite fears of others driving dangerously. Drivers say the road is considerably more dangerous today than before the pandemic, with half saying that driving is more stressful.

It is scary out there!
Reckless behavior behind the wheel is happening everywhere and drivers are taking notice of other people’s wild actions.

Compared to 2020:

  • 81% think drivers are more aggressive
  • 79% think drivers drive faster
  • 76% think drivers are more reckless

Even more frightening, more than a third of drivers (34%) believe it is safe to hold your phone while driving—whether that is to make a call, send a text, or use navigation. This feeling is more prevalent in younger drivers:

  • 39% of Gen Z and Millennials think it’s safe to be using the phone while driving
  • 35% of Gen X think it’s safe to be using the phone while driving
  • 20% of Boomers think it’s safe to be using the phone while driving

“Half of the drivers Nationwide surveyed said in the last six months they have held a cell phone to talk, text or use an app while driving,” said Beth Riczko, Nationwide’s president of P&C personal lines. “Far too many drivers are multitasking behind the wheel, putting everyone at risk by creating dangers for themselves, their passengers, pedestrians, and others on the road—I promise you it isn’t worth it.” 

‘I am not a bad driver, everyone else is!’
Despite reports of increasing danger, everyone thinks other drivers are to blame and they are not the ones contributing to the problem. 85% rate their driving as excellent or very good, but only 29% give the same rating to other drivers on the road around them.

Drivers of all generations seem to share this sentiment:

  • Gen Z – 82% say they are good drivers/36% say others around them are good drivers
  • Millennials – 86% say they are good drivers/38% say others around them are good drivers
  • Gen X – 86% say they are good drivers / 30% say others around them are good drivers
  • Boomers – 85% say they are good drivers / 20% say others around them are good drivers

Most of us are not as good at driving as we like to think
While people think they are good drivers, some of the behaviors they reported doing behind the wheel would indicate otherwise. Despite two-thirds of drivers (66%) saying that holding a cell phone to talk, text or use an app while driving is dangerous, half (51%) reported doing this in the past six months, with Millennials doing this more than any other age group (67%).

During the past 12 months:

  • 54% of drivers reported driving 10+mph over the speed limit
  • 53% reported eating while behind the wheel
  • 23% said they have audibly yelled at another driver
  • 21% have given an obscene gesture
  • 17% ran a stop sign/light

“The first step to correcting bad driving behavior is recognizing when you’re doing it, and surprisingly enough, technology can help with that,” said Riczko. “Nationwide’s SmartRide mobile app provides customized feedback on phone distractions to help our members reduce distracted driving on roadways. The app’s feedback has reduced everyday hand-held distractions by nearly 10 percent among those who use it.”

Learn more about phone distraction feedback provided with SmartRide or talk to your independent insurance agent.

Nationwide advocates to combat Distracted Driving
Nationwide is advocating for state lawmakers across the country to enact hands-free legislation allowing drivers to only use hands-free mobile phone technology while operating a motor vehicle. The intent is to curb crashes caused by drivers distracted by their mobile devices. To date, 24 states have enacted hands-free-primary enforcement laws with active legislation pending in 21 states.

Survey Methodology: Edelman Data & Intelligence conducted a national online survey of 1,000 adults (ages 18+) US car-owning consumers on behalf of Nationwide. The study was fielded from March 4 to March 11, 2022, and has an overall margin of error of ±3% at the 95% confidence level.