Drivers Recognize Dangerous Behaviors, Engage Anyway

Photo courtesy of AAA.

Nearly 96% of American drivers believe reading a text or email on a hand-held cellphone while driving is very or extremely dangerous as compared with 79.8% who feel the same way about talking on a hand-held cellphone, according to the 10th annual Traffic Safety Culture Index survey conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The 2018 report explores topics such as distracted, risky, drowsy, and impaired driving — gauging Americans' views and attitudes about how each of these behaviors impacts roadway safety.

While distracted driving continues to remain a major roadway issue, claiming some 3,166 lives in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a significant number of drivers still do not recognize the dangers of cellphone use behind the wheel.

For example, more than half of drivers surveyed (52.1%) report having driven while talking on a hand-held cellphone at least once in the past 30 days.

Moreover, some 17% of drivers surveyed said they approve of talking on a hand-held cellphone, and about 20% believe that people who are important to them approve of talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving.

The good news is that the bulk of those surveyed support laws against distracted driving, with almost 75% supporting laws against holding and talking on a cellphone and about 88% supporting laws against reading, typing, or sending a text or email while driving.

Speeding was another topic of the survey. In 2017, a total of 9,717 deaths, or 26% of all motor vehicle fatalities, occurred in speed-related crashes, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Survey respondents appear to recognize the hazards of speeding on various roads, with speeding on a freeway being perceived as dangerous by 54.2%, on a residential street by 64%, and speeding through a red light was seen as very or extremely dangerous by 85% of drivers.

An estimated 5,000 people died in 2015 alone in crashes involving drowsy driving, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Drowsy driving claims far too many lives annually and based on the survey, Americans appear to be wide awake to that fact.

A whopping 96% of drivers identify drowsy driving as very or extremely dangerous. Despite that fact, about 27% of drivers admit to having driven while being so tired that they had a hard time keeping their eyes open, at least once in the past 30 days.

Impaired driving — either due to alcohol consumption or drug use — remains another critical hindrance on the nation's roadways. Every day, almost 30 people in the U.S. lose their lives in drunk-driving collisions, according to NHTSA data.

While the majority of drivers surveyed (95.1%) perceive driving after drinking as very or extremely dangerous, almost 11% admitted to having done so in the past 30 days. 

In addition, the research shows that approximately 14.8 million Americans report driving within one hour after using marijuana in the past 30 days. But how they behave goes against what they believe to be dangerous.

In fact, some 70% of those surveyed said they consider driving within an hour after using marijuana to be very or extremely dangerous — while just over 7% of drivers personally approve of driving shortly after using marijuana. Finally, 87.3% indicate driving after using potentially impairing prescription drugs as very or extremely dangerous.

To compile the survey findings, AAA Foundation took a sample of 2,582 U.S. licensed drivers ages 16 and over who completed the online survey and reported having driven at least once in the past 30 days, weighted to reflect the U.S. population. Data was collected between Aug. 21 and Sept. 11, 2018.

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet

About the author
Marianne Matthews

Marianne Matthews


Marianne Matthews contributes safety news and articles for the Fleet Safety newsletter. She is an experienced trade editor.

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