Chances are you’ve been there. You’re cruising down the highway when you glance at the car in the next lane over and find its driver clicking away on his cellphone. Yep, he’s sending a text, and apparently you aren’t the only one who’s seriously bothered by this behavior.
According to a January 2012 survey of 895 American drivers conducted by the Consumer Reports’ National Research Center, texting behind the wheel is considered just slightly more annoying than able-bodied drivers parking in spaces reserved for disabled drivers.
The survey asked drivers to score 20 common automotive gripes on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being a behavior “that does not annoy you at all” and 10 representing a behavior that “annoys you tremendously.” About two-thirds of respondents gave texting and improper parking a 10.
The 10 Most Annoying Behind-the-Wheel Behaviors
- Texting on a cellphone while driving — 8.9
- Able-bodied drivers parking in spaces for disabled drivers — 8.7
- Tailgaters — 8.4
- Drivers who cut you off — 8.3
- Speeding and swerving in and out of traffic — 8.2
- Taking up two parking spaces — 7.7
- Talking on a cellphone while driving — 7.6
- Not letting you merge into a lane — 7.6.
- Not dimming high beams when approaching — 7.6
- Failing to use turn signals — 7.5
There’s an interesting irony here. Even though texting behind the wheel was so universally despised, drivers — particularly younger ones — are still doing it. A lot.
According to a 2010 distracted driving survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, close to half of the surveyed motorists under age 25 said they text or email while behind the wheel. Furthermore, 70 percent of this group said they send messages while steering.
One-fourth of those surveyed by the federal traffic safety agency said texting didn’t harm their driving performance — despite the fact that the U.S. Department of Transportation says 995 traffic deaths in 2009 involved cellphone use.
Texting behind the wheel can affect your auto insurance premiums as well as your safety (and annoyance levels). According to Dan Weedin, an insurance and risk management consultant in Seattle, if you’re involved in an at-fault accident because you were using a cellphone, it’s just like running a stop light or stop sign and hitting someone.
“In the insurance company’s eyes, that’s a high degree of negligence and your policy is probably not going to be renewed,” Weedin says.
The negligence that caused the accident will stay on your record for three years, and auto insurers either will refuse to provide coverage during that period or will slap you with a sky-high premium because you’re a high-risk driver.
Here are some more interesting tidbits from the Consumer Reports survey:
- Women were significantly more annoyed than men when it came to 14 of the 20 listed gripes.
- Age plays a significant role in some of the annoyance levels. Drivers under age 35, for instance, were less annoyed than older drivers when it came to loud car stereos. On the other hand, younger motorists were more annoyed by drivers who didn’t go when the stop light turned green.
- The difference between rural and urban drivers was evident in several categories. City drivers, for instance, were more annoyed by slow traffic, swerving drivers and limited parking spaces, while rural drivers had a higher degree of irritation when it came to motorists not turning on their headlights when it was raining or getting dark.
For a full list of all 20 roadway gripes, visit the Consumer Reports website.