Renegade Distracted Drivers

By Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts

Will “the land of the free and the home of the brave” refer to driving? Who are the defiant drivers who insist on their right to drive while texting or sending an email?

Almost any driver in the US has noticed other drivers driving erratically. Many are distracted by one thing or another. Asked whether they feel that they themselves should be able to use tech products while driving, most adults agree they should not. However, some maintain they have that right.

There are 15.3 million Americans, or 9% of online adults, who agree or strongly agree that they “should be allowed to text or email while I am driving a car.” Many U.S. states have enacted laws against this activity, yet this attitude of entitlement persists. One year ago, our survey found the same level of self-justification – 9%. Understanding these defiant communicators can help marketers, tech developers, and other interested parties seeking to help their safety and those driving near them.

A picture of pirate renegades emerges – a segment which may be tough to reach. Lawless defiance is not limited to using phones where they please. These righteous independents intend to abandon their wireless carrier (index 541), are using the Internet less because of advertising (index 451), seek privacy by turning off mobile phone location services and avoiding certain apps (index 262), and find it acceptable to use unlicensed software at home (index 247).

Of dozens of demographics characteristics, one unique aspect: they are four times as likely to be male age 25-34. Demographics alone don’t define this group.

They’re ahead of the pack in using cloud services, indexing 300 or higher in Internet file/folder synchronization, remote PC access, and sharing music playlists. The same goes for sharing their videos online and making international VoIP calls, both with an index of 349.

Texting and emailing are the only things they do with their mobile phones. Those with smartphones are well above average in using them to watch television, make video calls, buy something, make status updates, save voice memos, and redeem coupons.

Although they are ahead of the pack in using their smartphones, they were the last in their class to adopt technology. They are mobile phone laggards and PC laggards, which means they were in the last 16% of their age group to buy their first PC or mobile phone.

Looking ahead

I expect that there will be a lot of resistance from wireless operators, handset makers, app developers, and most of the tech industry. Consumers, too, will resist laws and any challenges to their sense of freedom. Most want to be able to use what tech products they have anywhere and anytime, regardless of the consequences.  Having watched people adopt tech product for over 30 years, I’m optimistic there will be technological solutions. These will be supported by the majority who acknowledge that the specific combination of driving and communicating is over the line.

It took untold years to reach smokers, even after the relationships between smoking and adverse health effects were widely known. Will the fast-moving tech industry set a record in protecting its customers? I hope so, and evidently most of us agree as well.


The information in this TUPdate is drawn from the MetaFacts Technology User Profile research service. Current TUP subscribers may submit an inquiry or use the TUP Interactive Access tool to drill further down into the TUP datasets. Others who are interested may contact MetaFacts.

To see other research coverage of Internet products and activities – from smartphones to feature phones, desktops to notebooks, social networking, demographics, and attitudes – see the many other questions TUP answers on Tech market research professionals can license direct access to TUP.

Methodological note

There is a well-known factor in survey research called social desirability bias. Respondents are known to answer some types of questions differently depending on the setting and who is asking them. To minimize this affect, we included attitudinal questions in a battery of other unrelated questions. Also, we allowed respondents to complete the survey online and anonymously, since this effect is lessened in self-administered surveys over answering by telephone or face to face with what they may see as authority figures.

About TUPdates

MetaFacts releases ongoing syndicated original research on the market shifts, trends and consumer profiles for Smartphones, Netbooks, Mobile PCs, Workplace PCs, Home PCs, Web Creators, Broadband, and many other technology products and services. These TUPdates are short analytical articles in a series of specific topics utilizing the Technology User Profile Annual Edition study, which reveals the changing patterns of technology adoption around the world. Interested technology professionals can sign up at for complimentary TUPdates – periodic snapshots of technology markets.

About MetaFacts

MetaFacts helps technology marketers find and measure their best and future customers. MetaFacts’ Technology User Profile (TUP) survey is the longest-running, large-scale comprehensive study of its kind, conducted continuously since 1983, the year before Apple released the Apple Macintosh. The detailed results are a primary market sizing and segmentation resource for leading companies providing consumer-oriented technology products and services, such as PCs, printers, Smartphones, consumer electronics, mobile computing, and related services and products. TUP analyzes key trends and the data-rich source can be dived into more deeply for custom analysis. For more information about the syndicated research service, analysis tools, publications and datasets, contact MetaFacts at 1-760-635-4300.

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