Even though most drivers support safe driving habits, many do not put them into practice, a recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found. The Foundation’s research points to a “culture of indifference” among drivers who place a high value on safe travel, but also admit to engaging in behaviors they consider unsafe, such as speeding and impaired driving.
The 2014 Traffic Safety Culture Index reports the results of a study in which drivers were surveyed about their drinking and driving habits, texting and cell phone usage, speeding and driving through red lights, and drowsy driving. The following is an overview of the results.
Drinking, Drugs and Driving
The message about the dangers of drinking and driving has been sinking in, as 66 percent of those drivers surveyed view the practice as a very serious threat to personal safety. In addition:
- 97% consider it unacceptable to drive when someone has had too much to drink
- 80% believe that anyone convicted of driving while intoxicated more than once should have an alcohol interlock ignition device to prevent them from starting the car if they have been drinking
- 73% think alcohol interlock ignition devices should be installed in all new cars
- 63% favored lowering the blood alcohol level from .08 to .05 g/dl
Even so, one in eight drivers still reported driving in the past 12 months while their blood alcohol level might have been at or over the legal limit, and 19 percent said they did so in the past month.
As far as drug use, almost half of those surveyed believe it is a much larger problem than it was three years ago.
- 56% view using illegal drugs as a serious threat
- 28% see prescription drug use an issue
- Over 90% agreed that it was unacceptable for a driver to “drive one hour after using marijuana”
- 85% supported laws that would make it “illegal to drive with a certain amount of marijuana in one’s system”
Texting and Cell Phone Usage
When it comes to cell phone use, drivers rate certain behaviors more risky than others. The study found:
- 69% reported talking on a cell phone while driving in the past 30 days
- 33% said they “talk on their cell phone while driving fairly often or regularly”
- Over 50% say the habit is dangerous
- 66% say the habit is unacceptable
However, 65% of drivers consider it acceptable to use hands-free phones, while only 33% view it as unacceptable.
In terms of texting, 78% of drivers believe that texting and emailing while driving are dangerous.
- 89% of drivers support laws against texting, typing and emailing while driving
- 68% strongly support such a law
- 36% admit to reading a text message or email while driving in the last 30 days
- 9% admit that they do it fairly regularly
- 27% like to multi-task and admit to driving and typing a text or email at the same time over the past 30 days
- Less than 50% support the federal government regulating “non-driving-related in-vehicle technologies” for being considered a distraction.
Age definitely has an impact on how distracted driving is perceived. Drivers over the age of 60 are the least likely to engage in these types of activities, while drivers aged 25-39 are most likely to talk on the phone, text and email, and view these activities as acceptable. Younger drivers, ages 16-18, also believe it’s acceptable to text, email and use the internet while driving.
Speeding, Red Lights and Drowsy Driving
A behind-the-wheel feeling of apathy toward speeding, running red lights and drowsy driving is also apparent in drivers, according to results from the study.
While 76% consider it unacceptable to drive more than 15 mph over the speed limit and 30% view speeding on the highway as a serious threat to their safety, 46% said they have driven 15 mph or more over the speed limit in the past 30 days and 14% said they do it fairly regularly. In addition, 95% consider driving 10 mph over the speed limit in a school zone unacceptable, but only 44% view speeding on residential streets as a very serious threat.
In terms of how drivers handle red lights, 94% consider it unacceptable to drive through a red light in cases where they could have stopped, but 33% admit to running a red in the past 30 days and 2% do it regularly.
As far as driving while sleep deprived, 96% consider it unacceptable to drive when they are so tired that they have trouble keeping their eyes open, but 29% reported that they had driven while struggling to stay awake in the past 30 days, 20% said they had done this more than once, and 2% do it on a regular basis.
Click on the link to read more about the AAA 2014 Traffic Safety Culture Index.