Rookie teenage drivers have long been seen as the worst motorists on the road, but now there's evidence that their older cousins - millennials - may be the most reckless people behind the wheel.
According to a report released Wednesday by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, millennials, age 19 to 24, are more likely than teens or drivers in any other age group to:
- Exceed the speed limit by 10 to 15 miles per hour.
- Run a red light when they could have stopped.
- Read or send a text message while driving.
- Be high on marijuana.
"Some of the drivers ages 19 to 24 believe that their dangerous driving behavior is acceptable," said David Yang, the foundation's executive director.
The number of people killed in crashes in 2015 - 35,092 - was a 7.2 percent increase over 2014, and crashes remain the leading cause of death among teen drivers.
But the AAA study found that 88 percent of drivers 19 to 24 admitted that within the past 30 days they had sped, run a red light or texted while driving. Drivers in two age groups above theirs ranked behind that group in admitting to one of the three infractions, while 16- to 18-year-olds trailed those three groups, with 69 percent of them saying they had done so.
"Before you start pointing the finger, look in the mirror," John B. Townsend II of AAA Mid-Atlantic said in a statement. "The study found that the majority of drivers of all ages have also engaged in the same risky behaviors in the last 30 days."
Comparing millennials with all other age groups, the AAA study found that they were:
- 1.6 times as likely to read a text message or email while driving.
- Nearly twice as likely to have typed and sent a text or email.
- 1.4 times as likely to have driven 10 mph above the speed limit in a neighborhood.
- More than twice as likely to speed in a school zone.
In addition, nearly half drove through a red light, compared with 36 percent of all drivers.
"It's surprising that the young millennial drivers are the ones taking the most chances. They should know better," Townsend said.
And millennials were more likely to admit to regularly or fairly often smoking pot within an hour of driving, with nearly 7 percent saying they do so.
Teen driver education campaigns have had some success, foundation spokeswoman Tamra Johnson said. Now the organization is considering the best ways to reach drivers of other ages.
The AAA study asked drivers in all age groups whether they thought they were much more careful drivers than other people on the road. Not surprisingly, most people thought they were much or somewhat more careful than average. Only 26 percent of millennials put themselves in the much more careful category, 8 percent less than the next closest category (25 to 39 year olds) and 16 percent below the rookie teenage drivers.
"It's critical that these drivers understand the potentially deadly consequences of these types of behaviors," Yang said, "and that they change their behavior and attitudes in order to reverse the number of fatalities on U.S. roads."