Colorado driving habit survey reveals compelling insights

Traffic fills Lincoln Avenue in July 2018. Steamboat Springs is entering one of the busiest summer weekends of the year. The Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament and Tour de Steamboat cycling event mean hotel rooms are hard to find and many local restaurants are busier than usual.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Some of the conclusions revealed in the Colorado Department of Transportation’s 2022 Driver Behavior Survey were fairly predictable, like how young people are less likely to wear their seatbelt.

However, some of the results might be more surprising, such as how people who admit they drive over the speed limit were less likely to say they use their phone while driving.

Results for the survey, which compiles statistics on unsafe driving habits such as speeding, driving under influence, ignoring seatbelts and distracted driving, were released Tuesday, July 12. In total, 866 Coloradans filled out the survey, which was available from March 4 to April 24. 

Among the respondents who admitted they don’t always wear their seatbelt, 43% said a reminder like a beeping noise was the most frequent motivator to buckle up, while 30% said the possibility of getting a ticket was the strongest motivator.

People of color were more than twice as likely with 46% saying the possibility of getting ticketed was their No. 1 motivator for wearing a seatbelt, as opposed to 18% of people who identified their ethnicity as white saying the same. 

“I think people of color are going to be more sensitive to racial profiling,” said Sam Cole, the traffic safety manager at CDOT who appointed Corona Insights, a market research firm, to conduct the survey.

According to the survey, people say they are less likely to wear seatbelts when traveling shorter distances. While 89% of the survey’s respondents said they wear their seatbelt, only 80% said they wear one when driving less than two miles. 

“What I found most alarming about the survey is that people are far less likely to buckle up close to home,” Cole said. “We know that most crashes happen close to home.”

Predictably, younger people were less likely to buckle up than older individuals. Though 94% of people 65 or older said they wear a seatbelt all the time, only 77% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 said they wear a seatbelt at least most of the time. 

According to the survey, drivers feel more confident speeding on highways with high speed limits than they do on local roads with low speed limits. At 59%, most drivers said they would be at least somewhat likely to get a ticket in a 30 mph zone, as compared to 42% who said it was at least somewhat likely to get a ticket in a 65 mph zone.

Drivers who say they drive faster than the speed limit were less likely to say they use their phone while driving.

Among the respondents to the survey who said they drive faster than the speed limit, only 51% said they use their phone while driving compared to 77% among those who said they speed at least some of the time. 

Generally speaking, the people surveyed who said they speed, don’t buckle up or consume alcohol or cannabis within two hours of driving were also more likely to say they engage in distracting activities on the road.

Among the most common distractions people succumb to while driving were eating and drinking, according to the survey. 

Only 13% of respondents reported to have not eaten or drank while driving over the previous seven days.

Eating and drinking while driving was listed as the most common distraction by 36% of the drivers surveyed. Interacting with an entertainment device such as a CD player, cell phone or radio was the second most common distraction with 21% of drivers saying it was their most common activity.

Young adults are far more likely to use their phone while driving. Among drivers ages 24-34, 82% said they used their phone while driving — the highest percentage among all age categories. Among those 65 and older, 53% said they drive and use their phone. 

Of those surveyed, 39% of drivers said they would feel safe driving within two hours of having a single alcoholic beverage, while only 6% said they would feel safe driving after having three or more drinks.

Low-income drivers feel less confident drinking and driving, according to the survey. Among those with household incomes under $50,000, 46% said they only feel safe driving after zero alcoholic drinks, compared to only 30% of people whose household incomes are higher. 

Colorado drivers said they feel less likely to get a DUI when driving under the influence of cannabis at 54% than alcohol at 70%. 

According to CDOT, vehicle-related deaths involving impaired drivers have increases by 73.8% so far in 2022 compared to the first six months of 2019.

So far, there have been 333 traffic fatalities in Colorado in 2022, which is on pace for the most since 2002 when there were 677.

“We’re seeing a record number of fatalities on our roadways,” said Cole. “The indicators are not going in the right direction.”

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