Global driving study finds American millennials are worst offenders of phone use behind the wheel

Last updated: 11-17-2019

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Global driving study finds American millennials are worst offenders of phone use behind the wheel

Liberty Mutual Insurance Provides Safe Driving Tips to Curb Dangerous Driving By Millennial Motorists & Drivers of All Ages Around the Globe

A new global driving study by Liberty Mutual Insurance finds that Millennial drivers need a crash course in Driving Safety 101. While nearly half of Millennials surveyed agree that their phone is a major distraction behind the wheel, phone use is still rampant with 86 percent of Millennials in the U.S. admitting to having used their phone while driving – that’s nearly 30 percent higher than the average of U.S. respondents. The global study of 8,010 drivers looked at driving habits across Western Europe (France, England, Ireland, Spain and Portugal) and found that 73 percent of Millennials from those countries have used their phone while driving as well. However, U.S. Millennials consistently owned up to phone use and other dangerous driving habits at significantly higher rates than their Western European peers.

In the study, two-thirds of U.S. Millennials (67 percent) admitted to having their phone visible while driving, ultimately making it easier to glance at incoming calls and texts or reach for the phone to send emails. In fact, 53 percent of U.S. Millennials send emails or texts behind the wheel, which is 20 percentage points higher than Western European Millennials.

“The influence of the global tech culture is more evident now than ever before as drivers increasingly feel the need to glance, check or interact with their phone while driving,” said Mike Sample, MS, CSP, lead driving safety expert and technical consultant at Liberty Mutual. “However, using your phone behind the wheel does not get less risky the more you do it. You’re still putting yourself and other drivers on the road at risk of having an accident.”

There is also a significant generational gap when looking at dangerous driving behaviors. In the U.S., 47 percent of Millennials admitted to driving aggressively versus 22 percent of Boomers. A majority (63 percent) of Millennials also multi-task behind the wheel, including eating or applying makeup, compared to only 54 percent of Generation X and 37 percent of Boomers.

When comparing each region’s drivers side-by-side, the Liberty Mutual Insurance study also found that Americans are driving dangerously and notably doing so more often than Western Europeans. Nearly half of U.S. drivers (47 percent) engage in dangerous driving behaviors such as speeding and multi-tasking versus 39 percent of those behind the wheel in Western Europe. In fact, more than a third (38 percent) of U.S. respondents admit to regularly speeding compared to 30 percent of Western Europe’s drivers. While 67 percent of Americans and 60 percent of Western Europeans have used their phone while driving, both admit to using their phone more while stopped at a red light or stop sign, with Americans reporting higher rates of reading and sending emails or texts.

A reason for the bad behaviors behind the wheel? Running late. U.S. drivers say a top reason for running late is poor time management on their part (39 percent), while Western Europeans claim it’s more likely something out of their control, such as something that came up last minute (34 percent). When under a time crunch, Americans more frequently take part in dangerous driving behaviors like speeding (51 percent) and not stopping at stop signs (23 percent) than Western Europeans (40 percent and 17 percent, respectively).

“Driving under stress, whether it’s the stress of getting to your destination on time or the need to be ‘always-on’ and reachable for others, has an undeniable impact on your driving,” said Sample. “Even a rolling stop or quick glance away from the road can impair your ability to get from Point A to Point B safely. It’s crucial for drivers to take action to curb this behavior and help make the roadways safer for everyone.” 

Liberty Mutual Insurance conducted a quantitative survey that examined driving attitudes and behaviors across the United States and Western Europe (includes Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, and England). The survey was conducted April 2019, among 3,006 Americans and 5,004 Western Europeans all over the age of 18. Overall the findings from the Safe Driving Study can be interpreted at a 95 percent confidence interval.

Liberty Mutual’s purpose is to help people embrace today and confidently pursue tomorrow. The promise we make to our customers throughout the world is to provide protection for the unexpected, delivered with care.  In business since 1912, and headquartered in Boston, Mass., today we are the fifth largest global property and casualty insurer based on 2018 gross written premium. We are the third largest property and casualty insurer in the U.S. based on 2018 direct written premium data as reported by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. We also rank 75th on the Fortune 100 list of largest corporations in the U.S. based on 2018 revenue. Liberty employs nearly 50,000 people in 30 countries and economies around the world.  

The sixth largest auto and home insurer in the U.S., Liberty Mutual ( sells full lines of coverage for automobile, homeowners, small commercial, valuable possessions and personal liability insurance. We are an industry leader in affinity partnerships, offering car and home insurance to employees and members of more than 15,000 companies, credit unions, professional associations and alumni groups.

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