CARS.COM — Millennials often get a bad rap. Sometimes that's unfair and unfounded; other times, there's empirical data to back it up. This is a story about the latter, as it pertains to bad behavior behind the wheel. According to a new study from roadside-assistance giant AAA, drivers age 19 to 24 are simply the worst when it comes to the gravely dangerous practices of texting while driving, red-light running and speeding.
The study, conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and surveying attitudes of more than 2,500 drivers age 16 and older, concluded that 88 percent of drivers in this age group engaged in at least one risky behavior in the past 30 days. Compounding concerns, these surveyed drivers indicated believing that their behavior is "acceptable."
"It's critical that these drivers understand the potentially deadly consequences of engaging in these types of behaviors and that they change their behavior and attitudes in order to reverse the growing number of fatalities on U.S. roads," Dr. David Yang, foundation executive director, said in a statement.
Indeed, in 2015, according to figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 35,000 motorists were killed and 2.4 million injured in crashes — a 7.2 percent increase over 2014 and the largest spike in half a century. Moreover, preliminary totals for 2016 already are showing an additional 8 percent increase for the first nine months of last year, spurring advocacy groups to call for stricter state traffic laws.
Nineteen- to 24-year-old drivers were 1.6 times more likely than all other age groups to read a text message or email on their smartphone; nearly twice as likely to send a text or email; 1.4 times more likely to exceed the speed limit in a residential area by at least 10 mph — and more than twice as likely to think that's OK. Meanwhile, half of drivers in that age group reported running a signal that had just turned red when they could've stopped safely compared with 36 percent overall, and 14 percent felt that was acceptable compared to just 6 percent overall.
Here's how the different age groups studied stacked up against one another, ranked least-worst to worst by the percentage who engaged in at least one risky driving behavior in the past 30 days:
6. Age 60-74, 67 percent
5. Age 75 and older, 69 percent
4. Age 16-18, 69 percent
3. Age 40-59, 75 percent
2. Age 25-39, 79 percent
1. Age 19-24, 88 percent