Safe Driving Report 2021

An estimated 154.9 million Americans admit to driving while distracted in the past year.

Driving while distracted is on the decline in the US, with 61% of American adults admitting to being distracted while behind the wheel, down from 91% in 2019.

We surveyed 2,059 American adults about their riskiest habits to learn who our most dangerous drivers are — and what’s causing them to live in harm’s way.

What are the most common risky habits?

The top distraction for US drivers is talking on the phone, with 42.4% of those surveyed — about 108 million drivers — admitting to answering their cell phone. This figure is up slightly from 41% in 2019. 25 states have banned handheld phone use without hands-free devices while driving.

The number of drivers admitting to speeding is also up compared with last year: 29.9%, representing some 76.4 million drivers, admitted to speeding in 2021 versus 27.6% of people surveyed in 2019.

Our phones show up again at third on the list for texting while driving, with 22.3% of Americans, or 56.9 million American drivers, admitting to texting while driving, which is illegal in 48 states. This figure is up 2.4% from 2019.

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs also rose in 2021, with an estimated 5.8% of Americans admitting to getting behind the wheel under the influence, compared to 4.8% in 2019.

What have you done while driving in the past year?

Selections201820192021
Talking on the phone 44.90% 40.90% 42.40%
Speeding 30.10% 27.60% 29.90%
Texting 16.30% 19.90% 22.30%
Driving while fatigued 18.10% 18.70% 18.10%
Arguing 13.60% 11.70%
Fixing appearance 7.90% 8.60% 10.20%
Driving under the influence 2.90% 4.80% 5.80%
I don’t get distracted 40.70% 43.50% 39.30%

Let’s break down the data

Gender

Women are more likely to concentrate on their driving than men — 44.4% of women compared with 33.7% of men. Men are more likely than women to engage in dangerous driving behaviors in all categories surveyed, with men slightly more likely to talk on the phone (44.2% of men vs 40.7% of women) and text (24.8% of men vs 20.0% of women) while at the wheel.

Men are far more likely to drive under the influence (8.8% of men vs 3.1% of women), speed (33.7% of men vs 26.5% of women) or drive while fatigued (20.4% of men vs 16.0% of women).

Maybe surprisingly, men were also more likely to say they fixed their appearance while driving, with 11.0% of men admitting to primping behind the wheel, compared with 9.5% of women.

Women versus men: Who is more distracted?

SelectionsMenWomen
Talking on the phone 44.20% 40.70%
Speeding 33.70% 26.50%
Texting 24.80% 20.00%
Driving while fatigued 20.40% 16.00%
Arguing 12.20% 11.30%
Fixing appearance 11.00% 9.50%
Driving under the influence 8.80% 3.10%
I don’t get distracted 33.70% 44.40%

Generation

Millennials are the generation most likely to get distracted behind the wheel, with only 31.3% of millennials saying they concentrate while driving. If you think that figure is bad, it’s 2.1% lower than in 2019 and 4.3% lower than in 2018.

The other generations fare better than millennials when it comes to focusing on the road, but they are far from perfect: 33.8% of Gen Xers say they concentrate while behind the wheel, down from 42.4% in 2019.

The youngest adult generation, Gen Z, were less likely to drive while distracted than millennials and Gen X, with 36.3% of Gen Z-ers saying they don’t get distracted while driving.

Boomers are the second-most likely to pay attention behind the wheel at 45.8%, while the older Silent Gen were the most likely to say they don’t drive distracted at 64.9%.

Millennials are more than three times more likely than boomers to drive drunk at 7.6% versus 2.5% of boomers, while Gen Z is almost four times more likely than boomers to drive drunk at 9.5%.

Bad driving habits by generation

SelectionsGen ZMillennialGen XBaby BoomersSilent Gen
Talking on the phone 45.30% 51.20% 46.70% 35.80% 18.2%
Speeding 31.30% 36.50% 32.90% 23.90% 18.2%
Texting 33.30% 37.10% 24.30% 8.30% 0.7%
Driving while fatigued 23.90% 22.10% 21.30% 12.90% 5.4%
Arguing 13.40% 17.10% 13.10% 7.40% 2.0%
Fixing appearance 18.90% 14.90% 12.30% 2.70% 2.70%
Driving under the influence 9.50% 7.60% 7.50% 2.50% 1.40%
I don’t get distracted 36.30% 31.30% 33.80% 45.80% 64.90%

Marital status

Drivers in committed relationships seem to drive more distractedly than those not in relationships. Respondents that were living with their significant other, married, or in a domestic partnership/civil union were more likely to say that they have driven in the past year while distracted than those that are unattached (70.9%, 67.3%, and 61.7%, respectively).

Widowers were the least likely to drive while distracted (39.6%), followed by people that are single (51.1%), separated (60.0%), and divorced (60.6%).

Relationship status% of respondents that drive while distracted
Single, but cohabiting with a significant other 70.90%
Married 67.30%
In a domestic partnership or civil union 61.70%
Divorced 60.60%
Separated 60.00%
Single, never married 51.10%
Widowed 39.60%

Income

Generally speaking, those with lower income are less likely to drive while distracted compared to those with higher income. In other words, as income increases, the percentage of people who drive while distracted increases as well.

Selected bad driving habits by income

Selections$0 to $9,999$10,000 to $24,999$25,000 to $49,999$50,000 to $74,999$75,000 to $99,999$100,000 to $124,999$125,000 to $149,999$150,000 to $174,999$175,000 to $199,999$200,000 and up
Talking on the phone 26.40% 29.00% 38.10% 47.00% 47.1% 57.60% 55.00% 50.00% 43.60% 63.00%
Speeding 11.20% 20.10% 27.70% 35.50% 30.5% 46.40% 40.40% 40.70% 20.50% 42.60%
Driving under the influence 7.20% 6.00% 3.50% 4.50% 4.8% 3.20% 8.30% 16.70% 15.40% 16.70%
I don’t get distracted 58.40% 53.70% 43.50% 35.80% 33.8% 24.00% 26.60% 13.00% 35.90% 24.10%

Distracted driving apps

Need some help training yourself not to Snapchat, Tweet or return a text while driving? Try a distracted driving app that can help you keep your eyes on the road instead of on your phone.

BrandFeatures
Cellcontrol
  • Blocks employees from talking, texting, emailing, posting on social media, surfing the web and more while driving.
  • Dual program works with technology installed on your employee’s vehicle and a mobile app.
  • Mobile app gives drivers access to their safety score — which analyzes speeding, braking and more.
  • Easy-to-use dashboard for employers to monitor driving behavior and safety scores for drivers in their fleet.
  • Available for iOS and Android, as well as all vehicle types.
TrueMotion Family Safe Driving
  • Monitors how your family members drive, analyzing phone use, texting, aggressive driving and speeding.
  • Optional location tracker allows you to see where your family is and how they got there.
  • Compare driving scores and rankings across members of your family to identify risky behaviors and encourage responsible driving.
  • Free for iOS and Android devices.
LifeSaver: Distracted Driving
  • For employers and parents alike, this app blocks phone use while you’re driving.
  • Notifies parents if teens unlock their phone while driving and when they’ve arrived at their destination.
  • Driver Portal allows parents to monitor driving habits and set up monthly rewards tied to safe, nondistracted driving.
  • Free for iOS and Android devices.
AT&T DriveMode: Don’t Text & Drive, It Can Wait
  • Silences texts and phone calls when you’re driving 15 mph or more.
  • Automatically texts AT&T customers to let them know you’re driving.
  • Parents can get an alert if the app is turned off.
  • Free for iOS and Android devices.
Text Limit
  • Blocks phone use when you’re driving over a speed you select.
  • Parents can indicate a “top speed” for teen drivers — faster speeds result in an email alert.
  • Set up the geolocater to know where your teen drivers are.
  • Free for iOS and Android devices.
Mojo: Rewards for Safe Driving
  • Scores drivers based on how distracted they are, like whether you’re texting or talking on the phone.
  • Provides tips to improve your driving and nudges you to reduce distracted driving.
  • Safe driving earns points you can redeem for a chance to win gift cards.
  • Invite friends to compete for safest driver.
  • Free for iOS and Android devices.
DriveSafe Mode
  • Disables your phone while your car is in motion.
  • Alerts parents when the app on their teen’s phone is shut off while driving.
  • Set up emergency phone numbers.
  • Free for iOS and Android devices.

Can car insurance help?

US drivers are involved in more than six million car accidents every year. In 2019, 2,895 people were killed in car crashes involving distracted driving. While car insurance can’t stop dangerous driving, it can help protect your finances if you’re in a fender bender — or worse.

No matter how focused your driving, compare car insurance policies and perks to find the best coverage you’re eligible for. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Methodology

Finder’s data is based on an online survey of 2,059 US adults born between 1928 and 2003 commissioned by Finder and conducted by Pureprofile in April 2021. Participants were paid volunteers.

We assume the participants in our survey represent the US population of 254.7 million Americans who are at least 18 years old according to the July 2019 US Census Bureau estimate. This assumption is made at the 95% confidence level with a 2.16% margin of error.

The survey asked respondents whether they had done any of the following in the past year with the possible selections of: Texting; Talking on the phone; Grooming (e.g makeup, fix hair, nails, checked teeth); Speeding; Driving under the influence (drinking, drugs); Driving while fatigued; Argued with my spouse / child / significant other; Nothing, I concentrate on the road while driving; Other.

We define generations by birth year according to the Pew Research Center’s generational guidelines:

  • Gen Z — 1997–2003
  • Millennials — 1981–1996
  • Gen X — 1965–1980
  • Baby boomers — 1946–1964
  • Silent generation — 1928–1945

We define geographical regions according to the divisions of the US Census Bureau.

Past Dangerous Driving surveys

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Allan Givens
Public Relations Manager
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Nicole Gallina
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