New Release: California Traffic Safety Survey 2020

July 22, 2020

UC Berkeley SafeTREC is excited to release the California Traffic Safety Survey 2020 led by Ewald & Wasserman Research Consultants (E&W). This study was conducted on behalf of the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) and the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC) at the University of California, Berkeley.  

Overview of the 2020 Study

The California Statewide Public Opinion Traffic Study is an annual cross-sectional survey of California drivers ages 18 and over regarding their opinions on traffic safety issues such as speeding, distracted driving, impaired driving, and pedestrian and bicycle safety, as well as their perceptions on other critical safety topics. The survey has been conducted since 2010.

The 2020 wave of data collection for the California Traffic Safety Study was conducted with an online panel of California drivers instead of an intercept interview, as were previous waves of data collection. This decision was made due to the COVID-19 pandemic occurring in 2020, and the need for an alternative data collection mode avoiding in-person contact between field interviewers and respondents. The survey questions and data analysis of survey items presented in this report are similar to previous waves of the survey, including survey items on traffic safety opinions and knowledge on traffic safety campaigns, distracted driving and perceptions about pedestrian and bicycle traffic interactions. 

Overall, 2,867 eligible panelists completed the online survey in 2020, while 1,298 completed intercept surveys in 2019. Access the 2020 Study.

Highlights of Study Findings

Explore a selection of the 2020 study findings below:

Biggest Safety Concern

“Distracted Driving because of TEXTING” was the biggest safety concern for 75.1% of surveyed drivers of the online panel, followed by “Speeding and Aggressive Driving” and “Drunk Driving”, mentioned by 72.5% and 67.9% respectively (Table Q2_2). 

Most Serious Distraction

Consistent with prior data collection waves, in 2020 “Texting While Driving” was reported as the most serious distraction by 68.5% of respondents (Table Q3_2). 

Using Electronic Device While Driving

The response trends of whether respondents use an electronic device while driving in 2020 are opposite from prior waves of data collection, where the majority of 2020 drivers report that they “Rarely” or “Never” use an electronic device (Table Q4). 

Driving Mistake Due to Cell Phone Use 

Drivers in 2020 were significantly less likely to report ever having made a driving mistake while using a cell phone (Table Q5). 

Near Crash Due to Talking/Texting

While more than half of the respondents in 2020 report having been hit or nearly hit by another driving talking or texting on a cell phone, there was a significant reduction in the number since 2019 (Table Q6). 

Read more about the findings and download the full survey.