While the public often cites teens as being the most common offenders, a recent survey found that adult drivers ages 25-39 were the most likely to admit engaging in these risky behaviors behind the wheel, according to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
The data, from a sample of 2,325 licensed drivers, ages 16 and older, who reported driving in the past 30 days, revealed more than one in four motorists reported sending a text or email while driving within the past month.
Adults ages 25-39 reported texting and driving most frequently, while those age 60 and up reported doing it the least.
"It’s noteworthy that the young novice drivers are using their phones while driving less than older drivers since, given their inexperience, they are especially susceptible to distracted driving crashes," Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said in a statement. "At the same time, it is discouraging that cell phone usage picks up when drivers gain more experience, as using a phone can lead to dangerous distractions behind the wheel."
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one out of every 10 fatal crashes involves distraction, resulting in more than 3,000 deaths per year, although experts agree the numbers are likely underestimated.
Previous research suggests that hands-free cell phones offer no significant safety benefits over handheld phones–hands-free is not risk-free.
"Using your phone while driving may seem safe, but it roughly quadruples your risk of being in a crash according to previous research," Jake Nelson, AAA director of traffic safety advocacy and research, said in a statement. "None of us is immune from the dangers of distracted driving. The best advice is to hang up and drive."
Nearly nine out of 10 (88 percent) motorists believe distracted driving is a bigger problem now than it was three years ago. About 89 percent believe that other drivers talking on a cell phone while driving is a serious threat to their personal safety, and nearly all (96 percent) believe that others texting or emailing while behind the wheel is a serious threat.
About one in three U.S. drivers read or sent text or email messages when driving, and most admitted to talking on the phone while driving, according to a March study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A higher percentage of 25- to 44-year-old men and women reported talking on a cell phone while driving than those between the ages 55 to 64, and a higher percentage of 18- to 34-year-old men and women reported reading or sending text or email messages while driving than those ages 45 to 64.