New Release: California Traffic Safety Survey 2021

June 24, 2021

UC Berkeley SafeTREC is excited to release the California Traffic Safety Survey 2021 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 2021 Study

The 2021 California Traffic Safety Study was conducted with an online panel of California drivers, as in the prior year of data collection. While in previous years, data was collected via in-person intercepts, the 2020 wave transitioned to an online, self-administered survey, a mode that was continued in 2021 to avoid in-person contact in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This report describes the findings of the 2021 Traffic Safety data, with a comparison to previous years of data, which include opinions on traffic safety, distracted driving, bicycle and pedestrian interactions, and other driving behaviors from a representative sample of California drivers. 

The online survey panelists were provided by MSG, a commercial sample and panel vendor. Participants were forwarded to an online survey portal programmed and managed by E&W. Eligibility criteria for participation included a valid California driver’s license and being 18 year or older. Quotas were specified for age groups and gender to align the 2021 survey with previous waves of the Traffic Safety Study and to achieve a representative cross-section of pre-screened and qualified respondents. 

Survey participation was anonymous, and a total of 2,801 responses were collected in May of 2021. 

Highlights of Study Findings

Explore a selection of the 2021 study findings below:

Biggest Safety Concern

“Distracted Driving because of TEXTING” was the biggest safety concern for 74.3% of surveyed drivers of the online panel, followed by “Speeding and Aggressive Driving” and “Drunk Driving”, mentioned by 73.8% and 68.7% respectively.

Behavioral Changes due to COVID-19 (COVID)

“Aggressive Driving / Road Rage” was the most frequently given response in Southern and Central California regions, whereas in Northern California, “Have Not Noticed Any Changes” was the biggest behavioral change noticed in the past year.

Most Serious Distraction

Consistent with prior data collection waves, in 2021, “Texting or Checking Phone While Driving” was reported as the most serious distraction by 69.7% of respondents.

Using Electronic Device While Driving

Similar to previous waves, one-third of respondents (33.8%) indicated that they “Regularly” or “Sometimes” used an electronic wireless device while driving in the past 30 days, while two-thirds stated they “Rarely” or “Never” did.

Driving Mistake Due to Cell Phone Use

The majority (59.8%) of respondents indicated they have never made a driving mistake while using a cell phone, a 4.5% significant decrease from 2020.

Near Crash Due to Talking/Texting

More than half (51.9%) of drivers in 2021 indicate that they have been hit or nearly hit by a driver who was talking or texting on a cell phone, which is similar to the 2020 data.

Read more about the findings and download the full 2021 survey.

For past reports, view the California Traffic Safety Survey for 2020, the California Speeding and Aggressive Driving Study for 2019, and the California Traffic Safety Survey for 2018.