We tell new teen drivers all the time: Don’t drive distracted. That means don’t talk on the cellphone, text, fiddle too much with the stereo, rummage in the backseat or anything else that would take your eyes off the road. But a new holiday trend is sneaking up on adult drivers: shopping while driving. According to a new poll, almost two out of every five Americans have shopped on their mobile devices while behind the wheel.
The statistics have increased in the past year, according to the Harris Poll conducted for Root Insurance. Now, with peak holiday shopping season upon us, more and more people are jumping on deals whenever they can — including in the car. Forty-six percent of people who admitted to “shopping while driving” said they were browsing through an online store, 45% said they were checking the status of an order, 40% were looking into the availability of an in-store item, 36% were searching for coupons or deals, and 33% were making purchases at checkout.
The poll also showed people ages 18-54 are more than three times as likely to have “shopped while driving” than people 55 or older.
“There might be flash sales going on or you’re driving home from work, and when you’re depleted, you don’t have as much self-control and you don’t resist the temptation,” Ravi Dhar, director of the Center for Customer Insights at the Yale School of Management, told Fast Company. “You should wait and do it later.”
That’s easier said than done though. Many retailers convince consumers there are only a few pieces of merchandise left, or that a special deal is a limited-time offer.
“Shopping for something you like — immediate gratification — becomes much more prominent, and you downplay safety,” Dhar explained. “You underestimate the chance that something will happen.”
Though it includes much more than just shopping, distracted driving is a big problem.
Nearly 20,000 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver between 2012 and 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“Of course, you care lot more about your life than [shopping] but psychologically, they’re not equal,” Dhar said. “What you think and feel at the moment drives choices . . . At the moment, we do all kinds of things that seem irrational.”
This holiday season, wait to shop until you’ve parked the car — the deals will still be there when you get home.