The 10 Most Common Driving Fails

ValuePenguin found that almost all drivers, 90%, admitted to being guilty of dangerous driving behavior within the past year. And while some of these behaviors — such as eating, talking on the phone or changing the music — may seem harmless, the fact that a reported 94% of crashes are caused by human error means that we could all stand to pay closer attention while driving on the road.
Women using phone in car.

ValuePenguin surveyed drivers across the U.S. to find out which of these driving fails are the most common and how driving behaviors differ by region, gender and age. Here are some of our key findings:

Key findings:

  • About 90% of drivers admit to engaging in at least one dangerous driving behavior in the last 12 months
  • One in four drivers has sent a text while driving in the past year, despite the fact that doing so was cited as the most dangerous thing to do while driving
  • Millenials are the most likely age group to admit to putting on makeup, not wearing a seatbelt and running a red light while driving
  • Men are 10% more likely than women to have been pulled over for a traffic violation
  • Those living in the Northeast are the luckiest when it comes to avoiding a traffic ticket, as 13% of those who have been pulled over have never received a ticket

Most common driver fails

Chart of the most common self reported driver fails.

As a group, cellphone-related habits account for a large portion of those fails that drivers admitted to committing: 58%, 27% and 24% of drivers reported talking on the phone, reading texts and sending texts, respectively. This is all in spite of the fact that 20 states along with the District of Columbia have issued bans on handheld cellphone use.

Our survey found that most people that engage in dangerous driving activities, do so without legal ramifications. Only one in 10 U.S. drivers reports to not having engaged in dangerous driving behavior in the past 12 months, while more than one-third of licensed drivers say they have never been pulled over for a traffic violation.

What drivers see as the most and least dangerous activities to do while driving

More survey respondents said that sending a text is the most dangerous thing to do while driving than those who listed drinking and driving. However, this is contradictory to driver behavior: six times as many drivers reported to sending a text while driving as those who reported drinking and driving — 24% compared to 4%.

RankMost dangerous activitiesLeast dangerous activities
1Sending a textChanging the music
2Drinking and drivingEating
3Reading a textTalking on the phone
4Falling asleepNot wearing a seatbelt
5Talking on the phoneSpeeding

By far and away, U.S. drivers feel that changing the music is the least dangerous "driver fail." More than twice as many drivers are comfortable changing the music than those comfortable making phone calls while driving.

Men get more tickets than women

Our survey revealed that male drivers are more likely to get tickets for traffic violations than their female counterparts, with 94% of men reporting having been pulled over at least once compared to 89% of women. Men were also more likely to have received multiple tickets — 65% of men reported having received two or more tickets compared to 46% of women.

This history of dangerous driving likely contributes to the high insurance costs for young male drivers, who pay 23% more for auto coverage than young women.

Chart comparing the number tickets received for traffic violations for men and women.

Our survey also revealed that men are more likely to ask for a warning or give an excuse to get out of a ticket than women — 33% compared to 27%. However, nearly one in 10 women has gotten out of a ticket by crying, compared to 3% of men.

How driving habits vary by region

Which regions are most guilty of dangerous driving in the last 12 months? The Northeast took the top spot with eight of the dangerous driving behaviors, followed by the Midwest with six, the West with five and the South with two. However, the South had the largest percentage of drivers who admitted to having sent a text while driving in the last 12 months — which our respondents frequently listed as the most dangerous activity to do while driving.

RegionPulled overAvoiding tickets# of top spots for driving fails among regions

Southerners are most likely to have been pulled over for a traffic violation (67%), while residents of the Northeast and West are least likely (60%). Those living in the Northeast may be the luckiest when it comes to avoiding a traffic ticket: 13% of those who have been pulled over have never received a ticket. Meanwhile, just 6% of residents out West who have been pulled over have never received a ticket.


To determine the most common driving fails, ValuePenguin commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,033 Americans with a valid driver’s license.

Bailey is a Research Analyst at ValuePenguin, covering insurance. He graduated from Occidental College with a B.A. in Mathematics and a minor in Computer Science. Bailey's analysis has been featured by CNBC, the Houston Chronicle and the National Transportation Bureau Safety Board.

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