Distracted driving

Volvo Car USA has teamed up with The Harris Poll for this report focusing on distracted driving. It explores the most prevalent distractions and the groups most prone to dangerous practices.

In today’s always-on culture, distractions are on the rise – and especially true among younger Gen Zs, more than half of whom say their level of distraction is impacting focus and productivity. As a result, many are looking to regain control of the incessant interruptions. 64% of Americans say they are actively trying to minimize distractions, and the top place they’re looking to do so is on the road. Cars are a top source of solace, with “driving in silence” being the number one action taken overall to minimize distractions (33%).

The increasing distractions impacting Americans across all areas of their lives are particularly acute on the road. 90% say there are more distractions driving today than there were five years ago. In fact, they do not list speeding, driving under the influence or driving aggressively as the number one threat to safety on the road. They list driving distracted.

One of the top sources of distraction behind the wheel is driving while worried, an activity 92% of Americans admit to doing, further indicating the rise of anxiety in a distracted society. In fact, one-third (33%) say they are “always” or “often” worried behind the wheel. Many are also pushing the boundaries of drowsiness on the road: four in five (82%) admit to driving while tired.

Not surprisingly, phones are another primary culprit causing drivers to lose focus. Drivers identify using a phone as the number one distraction behind the wheel (43%), far surpassing children (11%), other passengers (9%), and changing the GPS (8%) or music (5%).

The culprits aren't who you think

What is surprising though is the group who uses their phones the most behind the wheel. Despite identifying higher levels of distraction overall, Gen Zs report being more likely to focus on the road than their parents. Gen X and millennial drivers are the most likely to say they use their phones behind the wheel (81%), while Gen Z drivers fall more even with Young Boomers (71% and 72%, respectively).

In fact, parents with children under 18 in the household are among the most likely to use their phones while driving, whether they are at a stoplight (95%, compared to 90% overall), driving alone (87%, compared to 80%) or driving with a passenger (75%, compared to 66%). Even more surprising, the situation in which parents are most likely to surpass the general public in using their phones while driving is when they have their kids in the car (62%, compared to 38% overall). For some, this is not only an infrequent, emergency-based need: one-third (32%) admit they often use their phone while driving with kids.

What distracts drivers most?

The majority of Americans (71%) admit they use their phones while driving, mostly to talk (93%) and dial (74%). But over half of Americans say they engage in activities that take their eyes off the road for even longer, like sending texts (60%) and checking notifications (56%), while one in four say they video chat while driving (22%). Two-thirds (66%) don’t let their phones out of sight while driving, keeping them in arm’s reach.

Craving control in their cars

As distractions behind the wheel increase, Americans are looking for help to minimize and control them.The vast majority agree that we need better education around the impact of distracted driving (89%),. 74% say they would even pay more for a vehicle with built-in features to correct or prevent distractions on the road.

The vast majority agree that it’s safer for drivers to use voice commands to activate or control their vehicle’s features, rather than manually doing so (84%). Three in four say the roads would be much safer if all vehicles had voice command capabilities (75%) and that they expect to use the technology more in the next five years than they do now (74%).

When it comes to specific applications, more than half say they would use voice command technology for the navigation or GPS (51%). Parents in particular see the value in using voice commands to minimize distractions from their phones – they are at least 10% more likely than non-parents to say they would use voice commands to dial, send texts, have texts read to them and connect their phones to the car via Bluetooth.

Volvo takes on distracted driving

Distracted driving is a critical issue for all generations, with studies showing it remains a major cause of motor vehicle accidents across the country. Stemming from its Scandinavian design heritage, Volvo’s “Now and Whenever” philosophy keeps information essential to driving accessible and visible without having to take your eyes off the road. Thus, less vital features are found within the controls – keeping drivers more focused on reaching their destination.


The “now” components include innovation in dashboard display design and an available heads up display (HUD) directly in front of the driver, plus simple steering wheel controls to ensure drivers can keep eyes forward and make essential adjustments in real-time. Volvo vehicles also include voice command capabilities and Bluetooth integration, allowing for hands-free control and communication for items such as HVAC, navigation, phone and changing radio stations.


For the “whenever” portion of this philosophy, Volvo’s Sensus Connect system uses a tablet-like touchscreen, complete with a physical “home” button, and a four-tiled interface that enlarges – but does not remove – functions being used. To ensure easy access, drivers can customize the position of touchscreen buttons to best meet their preferences. Because of the use of a touchscreen instead of hard buttons, Volvo is able to update vehicle features after the time of purchase.