A new survey finds many New Jersey drivers are engaging in risky behavior- but they're convinced they'll be able to handle any dangerous situation that arises.

Road Rage Driver

The study by Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind, and co-sponsored by the state's Division of Highway Traffic Safety, finds for the first time in 5 years, the amount of texting while driving is down.  Overall 1 in 5 drivers say they continue to text while operating a motor vehicle but among younger drivers - ages 17 to 30 - 48 percent are still sending text messages while they're behind the wheel.

"That's especially troubling" says pollster Dan Cassino, "because those drivers are the least experienced, they're the most likely to get tickets, they're the most likely to get into accidents- and they were texting the most."

He says what's surprising is that "the biggest increases in texting are actually among drivers of middle age- drivers who are 30 to 45 years old had the biggest increase - it jumped by 5 or 6 points."

The poll also finds overall, 32 percent of Garden State drivers say they drive 70 mph on the highway "most of the time" or "often", up from 25 percent in 2011. Drivers with long commutes - over 20 miles (38%); and the youngest drivers - those under 30 (37%) are most likely to speed.

Not surprisingly, those who report frequently driving fast are twice as likely to have received a speeding ticket in the past 3 years as those who report speeding "just once in a while" or "never" (10% vs. 5%). Despite the results, drivers are aware of the potential to be ticketed for such risky behaviors. Overall, 8 in 10 (80%) believe they are "very likely" or "somewhat likely" to get a ticket for speeding.

On the positive side, most (91%) report wearing a seatbelt while driving, a figure that remains virtually unchanged from 2011 (90%). Those with the longest commutes are equally as likely to wear seatbelts while driving (93%), however, it's again the youngest drivers (83%) and those who frequently speed (85%) who are the least likely to wear seatbelts. Three-in-five (60%) think they are 'very likely' or 'somewhat likely' to be ticketed for not wearing a seat belt while driving.

This year's study found a decrease in the use of handheld phones while driving. Only nine percent of drivers admit to using a handheld phone behind the wheel regularly, down from 26 percent just five years ago. Despite these low figures, however, most (72%) report they see others talking on a hand held cellphone 'very often'.

Even though many drivers are continually engaging in risky behavior, Cassino says "almost every driver in New Jersey thinks they are an above-average driver -the drivers who drive fast and engage in risky driver behaviors think they're more skilled than other drivers, the drivers who go more slowly think they're more careful than other drivers, so everyone thinks they're above-average."

He adds "the one thing that New Jersey drivers do seem to agree on though, is that New York drivers are worse.  For several years now we've seen now that people agree that New York drivers are much worse than New Jersey - although New Jersey drivers agree that New Jersey isn't very good either."

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