Which generation has the worst driving behavior?

Plus take our quiz to find out what generation you drive like

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Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

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  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

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Ross Martin

Insurance Writer

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  • 4+ years in the Insurance Industry

Ross joined The Zebra as a writer and researcher in 2019. He specializes in writing insurance content to help shoppers make informed decisions.

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If you read our driving behavior and road rage report, you know that how people behave behind the wheel varies greatly based on where they live. However, another interesting factor is age.

We know that driver age is a big factor in how much people pay for car insurance, with teens far and away paying the most. In fact, on average, you can save 9% on car insurance premiums just by turning 20. 

It makes sense in some ways as younger drivers have less experience behind the wheel and may drive more recklessly. According to the National Safety Council, teens represent 3.6% of licensed drivers, but account for 9.3% of drivers in all crashes and 6.3% of drivers in fatal crashes[1].

But beyond these basic facts, how do drivers of different ages and generations behave behind the wheel? What bothers them the most? And what good behaviors do they prioritize?


Key Findings:

One of the biggest takeaways from our study is that Gen Z and Millennial drivers tend to share a lot in common, as do Gen X and Boomer drivers.

  • Gen Z and Millennial drivers are more likely to be frustrated when driving. 
  • Gen Z and Millennial drivers are more likely to be aggressive when driving
  • Boomer and Gen X drivers are more likely to participate in positive driving behaviors

Younger generations are more frustrated when driving

Overall, frustration when driving is down, but there were some notable differences between generations. Based on survey responses, 29% Gen Z drivers reported they experienced frustration behind the wheel very frequently or almost always. This is significantly higher than the general population (10%). Millennial drivers were similar at 27%. 

By contrast, 43% of Gen X drivers and 56% of Boomer drivers said they rarely or never experience frustration while driving.

What frustrates drivers, also varies by generation. And again, Millennials and Gen Z share a lot in common and so do Boomers and Gen X. For Millennials and Gen Z the top frustration is getting cut off. For Boomers and Gen X, its other drivers tailgating.

Younger generations more likely to self-report aggressive driving

We asked drivers what behaviors, if any, they engaged in within the past year. Naturally, this requires a bit of honesty in analyzing one’s own behavior. While 92% of people as a whole reported witnessing some form of aggressive driving behavior in the past year, only 58% of people admitted in engaging in one of the behaviors themselves.

From a generational perspective, this was the percentage of drivers who said they had committed an act of aggressive driving or road rage in the past year:

Generation % Engaged in at least one behavior
Gen Z 73%
Millennials 61%
Gen X 54%
Boomers 44%

Interestingly for all generations, the most commonly self-reported behavior was honking in anger to show frustration.

Where we start to see differences is in the second most commonly reported behavior. For Gen Z, it’s making obscene gestures; for Millennials it’s distracted driving; for Gen X and Boomers, it’s changing lanes without signaling.

Older generations most likely to participate in positive driving behaviors

In addition to asking drivers what negative habits they have behind the wheel, we also asked them about their positive driving habits. The list of behaviors included things like wearing a seatbelt, yielding to pedestrians, avoiding distractions, slowing down at yellow lights and adhering to speed limits. they were asked which they did frequently, often, sometimes or never. 

We averaged the responses within generations and gave each one an average behavior score.

Generation Behavior score average
Boomers 89%
Gen X 81%
Millennials 74%
Gen Z 66%

As you can see, the adherence to positive driving behaviors is highest with the oldest generation and moves progressively downward.

Conclusion

Based on the information self-reported by drivers in this survey, it does seem like experience is a major factor in how drivers behave on the road.

Gen Z and Millennials not only participate in positive driving behaviors at lower rates than Gen X and Boomers but also experience more frustration driving. Added to which, both Gen Z and Millennials are also more likely to engage in aggressive driving behaviors than Gen X and Boomers are.

Methodology

This report shares the results of an online survey conducted by panel partner Maru Blue using the survey platform Qualtrics from May 19, 2023 to June 9, 2023. There were 2,388 respondents balanced to reflect census representation in the U.S.