fdu_public_mind_pollMADISON, NJ - Drivers with long commutes are more likely to speed and engage in other unsafe behaviors than those with shorter commutes or no commute at all, according to a recent study by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMindä, co-sponsored by the state’s Division of Highway Traffic Safety. 

More than 6 in 10 (61%) of those who drive 20 miles or more to work say they drive more than 65 mph on the highway “most of the time” or “often,” compared with only 53% of those with shorter drives and 42% of those that don’t drive to work at all.

A quarter of all New Jersey drivers (25%) say they regularly drive more than 70 mph on New Jersey highways.  But again, drivers with long commutes (39%) are more likely to regularly travel at this speed than those with shorter drives (22%).

“In 2009 alone, unsafe speed was a factor in more than 23,000 crashes on New Jersey roads,” said Gary Poedubicky, acting director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety. “Long commutes can certainly be frustrating at times, however we have to recognize the serious danger that results from chronic speeding.”

Despite the fact that they are more likely to speed than other drivers, those with the longest commutes are less likely than those with shorter commutes to think they will get a ticket for going over the limit (80% compared to 89%). However, this belief is not borne out by reality, as 14% of drivers traveling more than 20 miles to work have received a speeding ticket, compared with only 7 percent of those who don’t regularly drive to work.

Garden State drivers are more respectful of the speed limit on local roads. Just 18% say that they regularly go more than 5 miles per hour over the speed limit on streets that have a limit of 30 mph, and four of five (81%) say that they “never” do it or only do it “once in a while.”

“Our results indicate that drivers don’t take the speed limits on highways too seriously, especially if they have a long drive every morning,” said principal investigator Dan Cassino. “But the speed limits where they live, and where their kids play, are a different matter.”

One of five drivers with long commutes (19%) say that they talk on a handheld phone “very often” or “sometimes” compared to one in 10 who don’t drive to work at all (9%).  But a similar proportion of New Jersey drivers with commutes of less than 20 miles (17%) report they talk on a handheld cell phone “sometimes” or “very often.”

While the proportion of drivers with short commutes (32%) who admit to texting and driving is similar to drivers with commutes of more than twenty miles (31%), each group is significantly more likely to text-while-driving than those who don’t commute to work (16%).

“Texting while driving appears to be out of control on our roads,” said Poedubicky.  “It is frightening when you consider the dangerous combination of texting and speeding.”

Despite their preponderance of engaging in unsafe behaviors, drivers with long commutes (76%) are more likely to rate their driving skills as “above average.”  This is 10 points higher than those who have shorter commutes (66%), or don’t drive to work at all (66%). These same drivers are also more likely to admit to having made a rude gesture at another driver: 36% of those with commutes of more than 20 miles have manually expressed their frustration on the road, compared with just 25% of those who don’t regularly drive to work.

“It makes sense for drivers with long hauls to work to get more frustrated,” said Cassino. “They feel like they know these roads better, they’re better drivers, and they just want everyone else to get out of their way.”

The Fairleigh Dickinson University survey was co-sponsored by the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety and carried out by telephone from April 14, 2011, to May 17, 2011 using a randomly selected sample of 1,002 New Jersey residents aged 17 and over who report they drive regularly, including an oversample of drivers under the age of 30. It has a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.