There have been many public debates in recent years about different generations’ habits, contributions to society, and trends. One consistent area of discussion is the prevalence of motor vehicle accidents in the United States and which age groups cause them most often. A recent study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicates that millennials, or people born between 1980 and 1994, are responsible for taking the most risks on the road and generally face a higher risk of experiencing car accidents.

The study reviewed drivers from various age groups and asked them about their driving habits during the past 30 days. According to the study, 88% of millennials admitted to engaging in risky behavior behind the wheel at least once during this timeframe, placing them squarely at the top of the study’s list of riskiest drivers by age group.

What Constitutes “Risky” Driving?

Driving is a complex action that becomes easier with time and practice due to the muscle memory involved. Driving has two essential components: the physical capability to control a vehicle in changing driving conditions, and the ability to anticipate the actions of other drivers nearby. The traffic signs and signals posted on the roads of the United States help drivers with the latter. However, it is up to individual drivers to improve the former through practice, patience, and careful decision making.

“Risky driving” is a loose term that applies to any behavior outside of careful, cautious, and attentive driving. A few examples of the risky behaviors millennials are most likely to engage in include:

  • Texting while driving. Distracted driving accidents have increased tremendously since the advent of smartphones in the early 2000s. Texting behind the wheel is one of the most distracting behaviors a driver can do because it requires the use of the driver’s hand, eyes, and attention when they should be focused on driving safely.
  • It’s not uncommon to see most drivers driving at five to ten miles per hour over the speed limit in many areas, and most drivers have the competency and experience to do this relatively safely. However, speed limits are posted for a reason. Available traffic data informs local lawmakers to decide on appropriate speed limits for different roads, and drivers of all experience levels have a duty of care to abide by posted speed limits at all times.
  • Running stop signs and red lights. Some drivers, unfortunately, view traffic signals like stop signs and red lights as annoyances rather than necessary safety devices. Drivers who run red lights or stop signs because the cross street “looks clear” put themselves and others at extreme risk when such actions ultimately save drivers a few seconds of driving time at most.

The 2017 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study concluded that drivers aged 19 to 24 had an 88.4% chance to engage in these behaviors, and drivers ages 25 to 39 had a 79.2% chance to do the same. These rates decreased as the age groups advanced. Drivers ages 40 to 59 reported a 75.2% chance to engage in risky behaviors. In comparison, this chance fell to 69.3% for new drivers between the ages of 16 to 18 and senior drivers over the age of 75, who reported a 69.1% chance of engaging in risky behavior. The “safest” drivers were those between the ages of 60 and 74, who still reported a relatively high chance of engaging in risky behavior behind the wheel at 67.3%.

Potential Legal Risks of Unsafe Driving

Every driver in California and the rest of the nation has a duty of care to abide by posted traffic signals and obey the traffic laws. Drivers who engage in risky or unsafe behavior must realize that, no matter how confident they may be behind the wheel, it only takes a second of inattention to cause a very serious accident. When a driver commits a moving violation such as speeding or running a red light, or who drives while distracted by a cell phone, will be liable for any resulting damages if their risky behavior causes an accident with another driver.

Drivers of all ages and experience levels need to avoid risky behaviors at all times. An auto accident can lead to complex insurance claims and civil litigation. Ultimately, saving a few seconds of driving time by speeding or committing another moving violation is never worth the potential damages such actions might cause. If another driver recently injured you due to their dangerous driving or distraction in Orange County, contact Easton & Easton to discuss potential legal remedies that can help you recover your losses.