Survey: Many know - but still ignore - rules of safe driving


A AAA-sponsored survey found that 35 percent of drivers admitted reading a text or email while driving in the past 30 days and 26 percent admitted sending a text message while driving in the past month. (AP File)

Published: Friday, January 6, 2012 at 10:19 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 6, 2012 at 10:19 a.m.

A new traffic safety poll found America's drivers are locked in on the idea of "Do as I say, not as I do" when they are behind the wheel.

Facts

Key findings of AAA's Traffic Safety Culture Index

    Drinking and driving
  • More than three in four drivers (76 percent) said people driving after drinking alcohol are a very serious threat to their personal safety and nearly all (97 percent) consider it to be unacceptable. However, more than 14 percent of drivers admit to driving when they thought their alcohol level was close to or possibly over the legal limit at least once in the past year, and of these, more than one in five (21 percent) have done so in the past month.


    Cellphone use and texting
  • Distracted driving, specifically cellphone use and texting while driving, is widespread. Ninety-four percent of drivers consider texting while driving a serious threat; however, more than one-third of drivers (35 percent) admit to reading a text or email while driving in the past 30 days and more than a quarter of drivers (26 percent) admit to sending a text message while driving in the past month.

  • Additionally, more than two-thirds of drivers (68 percent) report talking on their cell phone while driving in the past month, and nearly one in three (31 percent) say they do so fairly often or regularly.


    Speeding and Red Light Running
  • Speeding is widespread on highways and residential roads. Seventy-four percent of drivers consider it unacceptable for a driver to drive more than 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway, yet more than half of drivers (52 percent) admit to having done so in the past month.

  • Virtually all drivers (94 percent) consider it to be unacceptable for a driver to drive 15 mph over the speed limit on a residential street, yet more than one in four drivers (26 percent) admit to having done so within the past 30 days.

  • Nearly all drivers (94 percent) view it as unacceptable to drive through a traffic light that has already turned red if they could have stopped safely; however, more than one in three drivers (37 percent) admit doing this in the past month.


    Drowsy driving
  • Most drivers view drowsy driving as a serious threat to their safety and a completely unacceptable behavior. Virtually all drivers (96 percent) consider it unacceptable for someone to drive when they are so sleepy they can hardly keep their eyes open; however, nearly one-third of drivers (32 percent) admit to having done so during the past month.


    Safety Belts
  • Nearly one in four drivers (23 percent) admit that they have driven without wearing their safety belt in the past 30 days, and nearly one in five (19 percent) say they have done this more than once.


Source: AAA

The fourth annual Traffic Safety Culture Index by AAA found that, in many cases, drivers know what behaviors pose safety hazards — but do them anyway.

For example, 86 percent of the drivers polled said they know it is wrong to drive without first buckling their seat belt, but 20 percent admitted they had done so in the past month.

The survey results were released this week following a report by the U.S. Department of Transportation that traffic fatalities in 2010 marked the lowest level for traffic deaths in 60 years.

Nationwide, 32,885 people died as a result of vehicle crashes in 2010, according to federal transportation officials.

Here in Florida, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles said traffic deaths continued their five-year decline. Between 2005 and 2010, traffic fatalities fell from 3,533 to 2,444, which is a reduction of more than 30 percent.

When the AAA poll results were released, AAA officials said the poll showed "many (motorists) are unwilling to change potentially deadly driving behaviors and candidly admit they are part of the problem."

The poll found driving behaviors such as texting while driving and driving drunk remain problematic.

A spokeswoman for AAA, Michele Harris, said in a news release: "On average there is still one needless death every 16 minutes as a result of motor vehicle crashes. To reach zero deaths each driver must take responsibility for ensuring they actively choose to be safer drivers."

An example of ways drivers can be safer would be to adhere to speed limits. The poll found that 94 percent of those asked said motorists should not drive more than 15 mph over the speed limit on a residential street. However, 26 percent of drivers said they had driven at least 15 mph over the posted limit in a residential area in the previous month.

Peter Kissinger, traffic safety president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said the survey's findings mean that the "do as I say, not as I do" attitude among drivers must change before safe driving is the norm.

The June 6-28 survey polled 3,147 U.S. residents 16 and older.

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