Study: 46 Percent of Drivers Admit to Driving When They Shouldn't


Nearly half of all drivers admitted to driving when they shouldn't have. That's one finding in a poll of 2,000 licensed drivers from December 2013, which released Monday. The website found that 46 percent of respondents admitted to driving once or twice in the past year when they knew they shouldn't have.

Related: Survey: A Third of Drivers Lie in Car Insurance Applications

Eleven percent admitted to driving when they shouldn't have from three to 10 times in the past year. And 3 percent were serious repeat offenders, admitting to driving when they shouldn't have at least 11 times in the past year.

"I'm glad I don't know any of those 3 percenters," said Michelle Megna, managing editor at the Foster City, Calif.-based insurance advice website. Other survey results had no date attached, Megna told us, which means respondents only admitted to having ever done it.

It's not just alcohol impairment that precedes a poor choice to get behind the wheel. The survey dug up some interesting (if troubling) numbers: Drivers admitted to getting behind the wheel when they were sleepy (68 percent), experiencing a headache (53 percent), sick enough to be in bed (35 percent), less drunk than a friend (23 percent), weren't wearing necessary glasses or contacts (16 percent), taking narcotic pain medicine (15 percent) or had their arm in a cast (8 percent).

Note that these figures came from the general population. Not everyone has had their arm in a cast, and 25 percent of adults reportedly don't need glasses or contacts. That means, in all likelihood, that the portion of people who have ever had a cast and drove with it exceeds 8 percent. And the portion of visually impaired drivers who drove without glasses or contacts exceeds 16 percent.

Drivers also admitted to getting behind the wheel despite car problems, the survey found. What kind? Read on:

  • 61 percent admitted to driving with the check engine light on.
  • 32 percent admitted to driving when they couldn't see through snow or ice on the windshield.
  • 26 percent admitted to driving when their windshield wipers weren't working.
  • 21 percent admitted to driving with a broken speedometer.
  • 19 percent admitted to driving with a broken horn.
  • 18 percent admitted to driving with broken headlights.
  • 17 percent admitted to driving on a flat tire.
  • 10 percent admitted to driving when a door had to be held closed.
  • 7 percent admitted to driving without a required car seat for their child.
  • 6 percent admitted to driving a car filled with exhaust fumes.
  • 5 percent admitted to driving with a missing or broken driver's seat.

"I did find it a little surprising that people drove when their car needed repairs," Megna said. "Sometimes you don't really have a choice with a flat tire. … [But] the door having to be helped closed, I really get a great visual on that."

So can we. Fortunately, 79 percent of respondents said they had put down their keys when someone else persuaded them. It appears friends and family can be a good influence, especially when it comes to driving. photo by Evan Sears

By Kelsey Mays | August 6, 2014 | Comments (3)
Tags: Car Buying



These numbers aren't particularly surprising based on my experiences. I keep an old pair of glasses stashed in my glove box in case I don't have one of my regular pairs, but it's an issue if I have to unexpectedly drive another car without my glasses. I can also admit to driving home drowsy after a long day. I can understand the all the people who defer maintenance, though I luckily haven't had an issue yet. Sometime there is not enough time or money available to make the necessary repairs (and in the moment, most people will choose to make it to work rather than stay home due to a broken headlight)


Should we really take this seriously when a 10% subset had to hold their door closed and a 5% subset possibly had no driver's seat? I call BS on this survey where they obviously polled those with less than beater cars to their name.

Allie Bertineaux

Take these stats with many grains of salt. This is a survey in a vacuum. It needs a lot of qualification.

So 18 percent admitted driving with a "broken" headlight. How long did they drive with the broken headlight? Does that include a headlight with only a burned out bulb? If so, how long was it from when the driver discovered the burned out bulb to when she replaced it? I've driven with a burned out headlight, but once I found out replaced the bulb within hours. I've also driven with a broken horn - for two days after I discovered it, the time it took to get it to a repair shop.

Let's say my check engine light comes on; do I stop and have the car towed 53 miles to my repair shop? No. If I can I'll drive it to my destination, then make an appointment to have the car looked at - usually next day - and drive until then.

It would have been helpful if the writer had included a link to the actual study so we could see the conditions, definitions, and limitations of the study for ourselves. Without that the whole thing is only semi-revealing at best.

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