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Almost All Americans Believe They Are Safe Drivers, Yet Almost Three-Quarters Guilty of DWD

Nationwide Insurance released its second annual DWD (Driving While Distracted) study, which found that, while 98 percent of Americans claim to be safe drivers, a vast majority also admit to DWD. More than four out of five cell-phone owners are guilty of talking on their phones while driving, and nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of all drivers admit to partaking in some form of distracting behavior while driving, from cell phone use to eating. Further, almost 80 percent have been in a vehicle with distracted drivers and more than 40 percent have been hit or almost hit by another driver who was talking on a cell phone while driving.

"Our survey shows that four out of five drivers have been both guilty of, and witnesses to, DWD," said Bill Windsor, Associate Vice President of Safety for Nationwide. "Clearly, distracted driving has taken over our roadways, and our survey shows that no one is immune - no matter how safe they think they are. In fact, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, distracted driving causes 80 percent of all accidents."

The survey found that the prevalence of DWD can be attributed to technology and our societal mindset to be available at all times.

Too Much Technology

Nearly half (48 percent) considered cell phones and other technology use to be the most dangerous distraction.

Availability of technology was cited by 35 percent as the reason DWD is so common today.

Use of technology extends beyond speaking on the phone to text messages and e-mail. Nearly 40 percent of teens and Gen Yers who own cell phones admit to texting while driving, which requires additional visual, cognitive and manual attention.

Too Much Pressure

Almost two-thirds of drivers who own cell phones said their colleagues, friends and family expect them to be available by cell or other electronic communication devices at all times.

Our current societal mindset and busy, on-the-go lifestyles were cited by 35 percent as the reason why people drive distracted. Specifically, multitasking was cited by 22 percent and having too much to do and too little time was cited by 30 percent.

In addition to multitasking, the survey found DWD is growing in prevalence simply to stay connected socially. Nearly half of teens and Gen Y cited staying connected socially as a reason for driving while distracted.

"We found Americans think they’re safe drivers, even though they admit to driving while distracted," continued Windsor. "This dangerous false sense of confidence combined with current ‘rules’ making it socially and professionally unacceptable to not respond immediately to a call or e-mail, have made DWD commonplace, but Americans need to realize that there is no such thing as safe DWD."

Key Findings from the DWD Survey:

Older, But Not Wiser: DWD is a dangerous habit affecting drivers of all ages. In fact, only three percent of those surveyed felt that the prevalence of DWD was due solely to inexperienced or teen drivers. Well above half of all generations (78 percent of Generation Y, 80 percent of Generation X and 65 percent of Baby Boomers) were guilty of participating in tasks such as talking on a cell phone or eating. While teenage drivers were slightly less guilty of talking on their cell phones while driving at 60 percent, it does not mean that they are immune. In fact, the lower occurrence rate could be attributed to factors such as graduated drivers license laws for teens that ban cell phone use while driving, increased parental control, or the fact that they are just learning and more apt to follow the rules.

Accidents Happen: Distractions made up three of the top four reasons to why respondents have to suddenly apply the brakes while driving: daydreaming, adjusting music, and use of a cell phone/electronic device. Other drivers were cited as the other top reason.

The Riskier Road: Overall, more cell phone owners found themselves talking or texting while driving on the highways or through city streets than when they were parked, in traffic or at a light (almost 50 percent vs. almost 37 percent). However, teens were more likely to talk and text while not in motion than their older counterparts.

Curbing Behavior: When asked what would be most successful in preventing cell phone use while driving, respondents were closely split between technology that would automatically prevent devices from working in the car (43 percent) and laws banning the use of cell phones/electronic devices while driving (42 percent). However, in curbing all distractions, respondents placed more responsibility on drivers themselves. The individual driver was listed as most responsible for curbing the behavior by 41 percent of respondents.

"When it comes to preventing distracted driving, laws, company policies and education are important, however, individual Americans – whether we’ve had our license for four months or four decades – are in the driver’s seat when it comes to putting the brakes on DWD," said Windsor.

As part of its ongoing efforts to raise awareness of the prevalence of DWD, Nationwide will be partnering with the National Safety Council to jointly host a DWD Symposium in Washington, D.C., on October 14-15, 2008. At this Symposium, Nationwide and the National Safety Council will gather thought leaders to discuss which distractions pose the greatest threat and how distracted driving can be mitigated.

"The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates that 115 people are killed in auto accidents each day in the U.S. With distractions being such a large cause of accidents, it’s clear that DWD is an issue in our society that needs to be curbed now," said John Ulczycki, Executive Director of the Transportation Safety Group at the National Safety Council. "We look forward to partnering with Nationwide to help curb this dangerous trend that has taken over our roadways."

For more information on DWD - facts and figures, tips on safe driving and updates on Nationwide’s partnership with NASCAR to raise awareness of DWD - please visit www.nationwide.com/dwd.

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