While the pandemic cancelled vacation plans in 2020, cooped-up travelers are planning more road trips this year, according to a new national survey from Erie Insurance conducted to support Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April.

More than half of respondents plan to take at least one road trip this year. Another 30% say they would like to but it depends on the status of the pandemic. Of those planning to pack up their car, truck or SUV, more than half plan to travel more than 500 miles from home.

What distracts you behind the wheel?

“We commissioned this survey to better understand how the pandemic has impacted road travel, and  what distractions are  impacting driver safety,” said Jon Bloom, vice president of personal auto, Erie Insurance. “Based on data collected, there will likely be more people traveling by car who may be distracted by a number of factors, both inside and outside their vehicle. We want this to serve as a reminder for drivers to be safe and aware on the roads at all times.”

What’s driving this year’s travel trends?

The urge to see family and friends is real. When asked where they plan on going during their road trip, the majority (41%) will visit loved ones while many others are beach-bound (21%) or seeking outdoor adventure at a national park (12%). Most (76%) expect to travel with just one other person, typically their spouse or partner. Write-in destinations included many outdoor, socially spaced locations (likely a reaction from the pandemic), including campsites, lakeside resorts, lodges and cabins to partake in fishing, golfing, hiking and overall sightseeing activities.

More than any other age group, the 65+ crowd expects to travel long distances this year — one-third plan to travel more than 1,000 miles. Reasons why? As the first age group to be fully vaccinated, they may feel safer to travel and are eager to finally hug their adult children and grandchildren again.

Driving distractions to consider when road tripping

Nearly half the respondents (44%) said they are distracted by other passengers in their vehicle when driving. Of those, 40% say children distract them the most, followed by a spouse or significant other.

The greatest distraction for drivers in the three older age groups (45-54, 55-64, and 65+) was their spouses or significant others complaining about their driving skills. In the three younger age groups (18-24, 25-34 and 35-44), their greatest distraction was noisy children.

When asked what distracts them the most while driving, here’s a list of the top five distractions:

Top 5 Driving Distractions 

 Percentage of total respondents (one choice per respondent)

1. Things I see outside the window 

38.6%

2. Passengers 

18.2% (tie) 

3. Cell phone

18.2% (tie)

4. Trying to eat or drink

17.8%

5. The radio or music playing

6.2%

The older the age group, the less distracted drivers are by things inside their vehicle. Drivers 65+, for example, are distracted seven times more by what they see outside than they are by cell phones.

Males and female responded similarly to all distractions except trying to eat and drink and using their phone’s GPS. Nearly twice as many males (23%) are most distracted by trying to eat or drink compared to females (13%), while twice as many females are distracted by their GPS (nearly 7%) compared to males (nearly 4%).

What are people doing on their phones while driving?

More than one-third (35%) answered that they never use their phone while driving. The remaining 65% admitted to a variety of activities:

Top 5 Phone Activities While Driving 

Percentage of total respondents (multiple choices per respondent)

1. Use the GPS 

36.2%

2. Receive calls 

35.8%

3. Make calls 

28.4%

4. Check texts 

26.2%

5. Reply to texts 

17%

If you’re planning a road trip with your family, friends or heading out solo, Erie Insurance can help make sure you’re protected from the unexpected.

For more results from the Erie Insurance auto insurance survey, see this infographic.

Methodology
This survey was conducted online by Falls on behalf of Erie Insurance, from February 12 through February 25, 2021, among 500 U.S. residents ages 18 and older. Falls established the sampling quotas, designed the questionnaire, tabulated the survey response, and managed the overall project. Falls used Dynata (Plano, TX) to administer the survey via the internet, including mobile devices, to Dynata’s captive U.S. panels who met the age, gender and regional demographic criteria.