Califonia Bountiful

Are you guilty of DWD?

July/Aug. 2007 California Country magazine

A new survey by Nationwide Mutual Insurance shows "driving while distracted" (DWD) is prevalent among today's drivers and more dangerous than you might think.

You've seen them in your rearview mirror or in the car next to you. Sometimes they're putting on makeup while steering with their knees. Or perhaps they're punching text messages into a phone without ever looking up at the road. Or maybe they're using a BlackBerry to read e-mail with one hand and steering with a cup of coffee in the other.

A new survey by Nationwide Mutual Insurance shows "driving while distracted" (DWD) is prevalent among today's drivers and more dangerous than you might think. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says distracted drivers account for almost 80 percent of all crashes in the United States.

"We are a nation of people with too much to do and too little time. In fact, more than 80 percent of drivers surveyed identified themselves as multitaskers," said Bill Windsor, associate vice president of safety at Nationwide. "However, driving requires significant attention. Multi­tasking while behind the wheel poses a threat to you and your fellow drivers."

According to the survey of 1,200 Ameri­cans, 83 percent of those polled believe they are safe drivers and 59 percent don't consider themselves distracted drivers. However, 73 percent talk on cell phones, only 16 percent drive at or below the speed limit and 38 percent admit they have driven a certain distance without any recollection of doing so.

Key findings include:

DWD generation: Gen Y-ers are the guiltiest of driving while distracted, with 35 percent admitting to always multitasking in the car. Thirty percent of Gen X-ers and 21 percent of baby boomers confess to the same. Technology is one of the greatest DWD culprits for Gen Y—37 percent of this age group admitted to texting or IM-ing while driving, as compared to 17 percent of Gen X-ers and 2 percent of baby boomers.

Wish list: Only food trumped technology in household conveniences drivers would like in their cars, with 31 percent wanting a fridge and 29 percent wanting Internet access.

Service with the seatbelt on: Sixty-two percent of respondents use drive-thru services at least once a week. Drive-thru use varies significantly across generations, with 45 percent of Gen Y-ers and 48 percent of Gen X-ers preferring it as compared to only 28 percent of baby boomers.

Going ZZZ mph: Nearly three out of four participants admit to driving while less than alert. To stay awake, 81 percent roll the window down, 79 percent play loud music and 69 percent drink anything with caffeine.

Just like the mailman: Snow, sleet or rain doesn't prevent drivers from multitasking in the car, and more than a third of those who admit to this practice say they do it regardless of weather conditions.

Regional rage: Twenty-six percent of Southerners and 25 percent of Northeasterners admit to having road rage, followed closely by 21 percent of Western respondents. Beyond geography, more women than men experience road rage, with Gen Y women having the most.

Disturbing DUI: Five percent of those surveyed admit they drive drunk. While this number may seem small, it adds up to approximately 60 people out of 1,200 and those are just participants who admitted doing so. Four percent drive with an open container of alcohol.

"More than half of respondents drive at least one hour a day. Clearly, Americans are on the go but they don't drive nearly as safely as they should," said Windsor. "Even though we have ever-increasing demands on our time and more technology, we need to make an effort, when behind the wheel, to focus on driving."

John Valentine is director of sponsor relations for Nationwide Insurance. He can be reached at 800-552-2437 ext. 4393 or

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