Do Americans really believe that phoning while driving isn’t dangerous?

A disturbingly large percentage of respondents to the Center’s Future of Transportation Study think that talking on the phone is no less safe than many other activities that occur in the car.  How do the numbers break down by age, ethnicity, region, and education?


Who believes this statement?

Talking on the phone while driving is no more dangerous or distracting than talking to the person next to you, applying makeup, eating, or drinking.

Many scientific studies have found that this statement is false; research has shown that talking on the phone takes a driver’s attention and mind away from the road, often for extended periods of time, and in ways that are typically much more detrimental to safety than other types of activities.

Nevertheless, overall 40% of respondents in our transportation study somewhat or strongly agreed that talking on the phone while driving is no more dangerous than other activities.

Agreement did vary somewhat by age. While 43% of Post-Millennials (ages 14-18) and 44% of Millennials (age 19-35) agreed somewhat or strongly with this statement, a slightly smaller 39% of pre-Millennials (ages 36+) did.

The numbers vary by race/ethnicity. Forty-seven percent of Latinos agreed or strongly agreed, compared to 39% of whites and Asians and 40% of African-Americans.

The percentages who agree that talking on the phone while driving is not more dangerous than other activities varies by region. While only 35% of those from the Midwest somewhat or strongly agree with this statement — this compared to 40% of those in the West, 41% of those in the South, and 46% of those who reside in the Northeast.

Surprisingly, better-educated Americans are more likely to agree with this statement: while 37% of those with some college education or less agree or somewhat agree, 45% of those with a college degree or more do. (Here we see that education is not always correlated with enlightenment.)

So in sum, despite of a mountain of evidence to the contrary, disturbingly large numbers in all groups agree with a statement affecting the safety of millions of Americans that simply is not true.

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December 19, 2017