USA Distracted Driving Survey: Male Drivers More Likely to Multitask, SMS and Check Out Pedestrians

June 21, 2018


On the road


Richard Greenwood

As part of our quest to understand the drivers of the world and improve road safety, we've surveyed 2,214 drivers across the USA about their distracted driving habits. The survey found over 70% of drivers admitting to driving distracted and that the issue is much broader than calling or texting from behind the wheel.

Women are more focussed on the road

Smiling women focussed while driving on sunny day

The survey results found men are much more likely to be distracted by their phone, try and drive with their knees or watch videos on the go. The biggest difference came from men checking out attractive pedestrians such as runners as they drive.

Compared to women, men are:

  • 22% more likely to use smartphone while driving (not hands free)
  • 260% more likely to check out pedestrians while driving
  • 74% more likely to drive with knees (suggesting the hands are getting used for other distractions)
  • 70% more likely to watch videos while driving

Universal love of the drive-thru (don't eat and drive)

Drive-thru restaurant sign

No matter how you break the data down (age, gender, US region) it shows around 60% of drivers are consuming food and drinks such as drive-thru fast food, sodas and hot coffee. This doesn't get much attention but a number of studies have found it can cause some big risks including;

  • Lytx study in 2014 found drivers are 3.6 more times likely to crash while eating or drinking
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates odds of crashing go up 80 percent and that 65 percent of close calls on the road are due to food or drink (non-alcohol) related distractions.

Young drivers the cell phone distraction scales

Young driver using mobile phone while driving

Around half (48.3%) of new drivers admit to using their phone (non hand-free) while driving which is the highest for any age group. This suggests that FOMO is a stronger power than thinking about safety for many young drivers. The survey found their wasn't a big drop in the percentage of drivers using their phone behind the wheel until the 45 plus age group.

'Netflix and Chill' becomes 'Netflix and Drive' - A even scarier part of the mobile use among male drivers under 25 is that nearly a fifth (17.4%) admit to watching videos via their phone while driving.

A few regional findings

Using a phone while driving

  • Most: West USA including California, Washington, Nevada, Arizona & Colorado = 41.2%
  • Least: Northeast USA including New York, Massachusetts = 33.4%

Driving with knees

  • Most: Midwest USA including Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio & Iowa = 21.5%
  • Least: West USA including California, Washington, Nevada, Arizona & Colorado = 13.4%

You can explore some of the key findings in the interactive graphs below

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Richard Greenwood

Marketing Manager at Smith's Lawyers. Advocate for road safety and fan of technology that makes the roads or workplaces safer.