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Nationwide Survey Shows Startling Number of Americans Guilty of DWD.

Culture of Multitasking Spreading to the Roads, Leading Many to "Drive While Distracted"

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

A new survey by Nationwide Mutual Insurance shows "Driving While Distracted" (DWD) is quite 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 U.S. As found by Nationwide's survey, even those who perceive themselves as safe drivers admit to doing outlandish things behind the wheel, including changing clothes, balancing a checkbook and shaving.

"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. 30 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 and 2 percent of Baby Boomers.

* Service With the Seatbelt On: 62 percent of respondents use drive-thru services at least once a week. Use of drive-thru services varies significantly across generations with 45 percent of Gen Y-ers and 48 percent of Gen X-ers preferring to drive-through as compared to only 28 percent of Baby Boomers.

* Fast Food Nation: 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. Eating habits in cars also varied across generations - 73 percent of Gen Y-ers eat snacks in the car and 48 percent eat full meals. In contrast, 42 percent of Baby Boomers say they don't eat snacks while driving and even more - 71 percent - say they don't eat meals while driving.

* Going ZZZ mph: Nearly three out of four of 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. More than a third of those who admit to daydreaming, fixing their hair, talking on their cell phone, sending texts, checking their BlackBerry or reading, say they do it regardless of weather conditions.

* Regional Rage: New York is known for its toughness but road rage isn't more common up north. 25 percent of Northeasterners admit to having road rage but so do 26 percent of Southerners and 21 percent of western respondents. Beyond geography, more women than men experience road rage, with Gen Y women having the most road rage.

* Disturbing DUI: 5 percent of those surveyed admit they drive drunk. While this number may seem small, it adds up to approximately 60 people - and those are just participants who admitted doing so. 4 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."

What exactly do people do behind the wheel? According to the survey, 31 percent of respondents say they daydream; 23 percent experience road rage; 19 percent fix their hair, text or instant message; 14 percent comfort or discipline children; and 8 percent drive with a pet in their lap.

Other multitasking efforts drivers admit to doing include:

* Changing seats with passengers

* Reading a book

* Watching a movie

* Writing a grocery list

* Nursing a baby

* Putting in contact lenses


A total of 1,200 surveys were completed between Nov. 3 and Nov. 20, 2006, among a national sample via MarketVision Research's proprietary internet platform, Viewpoint Forum. All respondents were required to be between the ages of 18 and 60 and drive a car. Nationwide was not identified as the sponsor. The survey has +/- 4.5 percent margin of error.

About Nationwide:

Nationwide, based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the world, with more than $158 billion in assets. Nationwide ranks #98 on the Fortune 100 list. The company provides a full range of insurance and financial services, including auto, motorcycle, boat, homeowners, life, commercial insurance, administrative services, annuities, mortgages, mutual funds, pensions and long-term savings plans. For more information, visit

Nationwide and the Nationwide Framemark are federally registered service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. On Your Side is a service mark of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Jan 22, 2007
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