Millennials are America's worst drivers

Driving textingFlickr/Lord JimJust don’t.

•Millennials report texting, speeding, and running red lights while behind the wheel.
•Millennials think it’s OK to speed in school zones.

•The statistics improve for older drivers, but not by that much.

Ah, millennials. At first, the auto industry thought they would never buy cars. The generation seemed to be far more interested in selfies than driver’s licenses.

But that fear is proving to be unfounded, as millennials learn to drive and start buying vehicles.

According to a recent report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, it might have been better if the cadres of young motorists now aged 19-24 and 25-39 had avoided getting behind the wheel.

“88% of young millennials engaged in at least one risky behaviour behind the wheel in the past 30 days, earning the top spot of worst behaved U.S. drivers,” the report said, focusing on the recklessness of the “young” millennial group, those aged 19-24.

“These dangerous behaviours ― which increase crash risk ― included texting while driving, red-light running and speeding. These findings come as U.S. traffic deaths rose to 35,092 in 2015, an increase of more than 7 per cent, the largest single-year increase in five decades.”

It’s largely accepted among researchers that texting while driving is stupendously dangerous. Speeding and running red lights are also the opposite of defensive driving, but neither behaviour is anything new for younger motorists.

It’s all good

What is new, evidently, is the lack of guilt millennials feel over the level of menace they bring to the roadways.

“Alarmingly, some of the drivers ages 19-24 believe that their dangerous driving behaviour is acceptable,” Dr. David Yang, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s executive director, said in a statement.

“It’s critical that these drivers understand the potentially deadly consequences of engaging in these types of behaviours and that they change their behaviour and attitudes in order to reverse the growing number of fatalities on U.S. roads.”

The statistics are sort of staggering.

The report said that over 88% of drivers between 19-24 had texted, run a red light, or exceeded the speed limit in a 30-day period.

And this one is genuinely challenging to fathom: “Nearly 12 per cent of drivers ages 19-24 reported feeling that it is acceptable to drive 10 mph over the speed limit in a school zone, compared to less than 5 per cent of all drivers,” the report said.

That prospects for carnage go down somewhat with age and experience: only 79% of those aged 25 to 39-year-old drivers did those bad things during the surveyed period.

To be honest, while millennials appear to be the most dangerous generation currently behind the wheel, older drivers are far from safe.

For every other group surveyed, which included drivers between the ages of 40 to 59 and drivers over 75, the three negative behaviours were all reported at levels well above 60%.

We are, it seems, a nation of spectacularly irresponsible motorists. Millennials are potentially the most deadly by a long shot, but their elders aren’t that much better — and in the end, really far more blameworthy. They should obviously know better.

The dire stats put an awkward issue on the table for the auto industry, which has completely folded up in the the face of the consumer-electronics industry’s intense desire to keep eyeballs glued to screens 24/7. In-car infotainment systems are now thoroughly optimised to make using a smartphone while driving a plausible option.

The solution is clear: smartphones should be disabled while the vehicle is in motion. With deaths on America’s roadways rising, this would be a straightforward way to end the slaughter while we wait for the self-driving vehicles to come online.

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