ERIE, Penn. – Some experts believe that for society at large to stop a negative behavior, it has to become socially unacceptable. So where does society stand on texting while driving? To encourage safe driving by raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving, Erie Insurance commissioned a national survey conducted online by The Harris Poll to find out.
The survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults asked people not for their personal opinions, but rather how they think society as a whole views the behavior. Almost three-quarters (73%) think texting while driving is considered socially unacceptable – but that leaves 27% who think it’s considered socially acceptable – either very (9%) or somewhat (18%).
As for their inclination to speak up, nine out of 10 Americans (90%) say if they were a passenger in a motor vehicle and the driver started texting, they would be likely to tell them to stop. Why wouldn’t the remaining 10% say something? Thirty-seven percent don’t feel it’s their place to tell a driver what to do, while one in five (21%) say it’s because they text while driving, too.
Below are the top 5 reasons passengers wouldn’t tell a driver to stop texting.
• I don’t feel it’s my place to tell the driver what to do. 37%
• I wouldn’t want to start an argument. 33%
• It would be uncomfortable to say something. 32%
• I do it, too. 21%
• It doesn’t bother me when someone texts while driving. 21%
• I wouldn’t want to offend the driver. 13%
One in five American drivers (20%) say they’ve been told by a passenger to stop texting while they were driving. Of those, 10% kept doing it anyway. About half (47%) stopped but did it again later when that passenger was not in the vehicle with them. Forty-three percent, however, stopped texting and never did it again.
“We were encouraged to see that passengers can make a difference in getting drivers to change their behavior,” said Bob Buckel, vice president & product manager, Erie Insurance. “The more people speak up about unsafe distracted driving behaviors like texting, the less people will do it and the safer roads will be for everyone.”
To help people who wouldn’t speak up because they wouldn’t want to offend the driver or feel it would be uncomfortable to say something, ERIE reached out to a psychology professor whose areas of study include vulnerable road users, driver training, driving styles and hazard perception in driving.
“If you are in a car and the driver starts texting, you could say, ‘It looks like you really need to be texting someone right now so why don’t you let me drive? I can drive and you can text, and once we get to our destination, you can get back into the driver’s seat,’” said Stanislaw Kolek, visiting assistant professor at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa. “It’s a way to get them to realize that the behavior is not wanted and that you’ve already come up with a solution. Asking them if you can be the driver in that situation is usually a very non-antagonistic way of getting yourself out of a dangerous situation.”
The majority of Americans (87%) think passengers should tell drivers to stop texting because the problem will only be solved when it becomes socially unacceptable, while 9% say passengers should not speak up because it should be up to the driver to decide for themselves whether to text while driving. Only 3% say passengers should not tell drivers to stop texting while driving because there’s nothing wrong with it.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 3,000 people are killed in distracted driving crashes each year.
About the Survey
This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Erie Insurance from January 31 – February 2, 2023 among 2,060 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within +/- 2.8 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact [email protected].
About Erie Insurance
According to A.M. Best Company, Erie Insurance Group, based in Erie, Pennsylvania, is the 11th largest homeowners insurer, 13th largest automobile insurer and 13th largest commercial lines insurer in the United States based on direct premiums written. Founded in 1925, Erie Insurance is a Fortune 500 company and the 19th largest property/casualty insurer in the United States based on total lines net premium written. Rated A+ (Superior) by A.M. Best, ERIE has more than 6 million policies in force and operates in 12 states and the District of Columbia. News releases and more information are available on ERIE’s website at www.erieinsurance.com.