FLORHAM PARK—Thirty-five percent of drivers feel less safe than they did five years ago, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s 2009 Traffic Safety Culture Index. Overall, the majority of American motorists report that they feel no safer now than they did five years ago.
Thirty-one percent of motorists cited distracted driving as the top reason they feel less safe driving today than five years ago. Aggressive driving (20 percent) and speeding (15 percent) were also major factors mentioned by respondents.
“Over the past 25 years, motor vehicles crashes have claimed the lives of one million Americans – including 37,261 last year,” said Michele Mount, director of public affairs for Florham Park-based AAA New Jersey.
“Automobile crashes kill more children, teens and young adults than any other single cause.”
Eighty percent of motorists rated distracted driving as a serious threat to their safety. Those respondents who admitted to distracted driving acknowledged they were putting themselves in danger – more than half of those who confessed to reading or sending text messages and e-mails while driving indicated they were much more likely to have an accident.
“In today’s tech savvy society, more and more people rightly fear that distracted driving – phone calls, e-mails and texting – is a growing threat on our highways,” continued Mount. “As this study shows, people fear distracted drivers almost as much as drunk drivers.”
Following are highlights from the 2009 Traffic Safety Culture Index:
Distracted drivers almost as dangerous as drunk drivers
• Ninety percent of respondents said people driving under the influence of alcohol are a very serious threat to their safety.
• Eighty-seventy percent said the same about drivers who text message or e-mail while driving.
Practice what you preach
While 80 percent of motorists rated distracted driving as a very serious threat to their safety, many admitted to driving while distracted in the previous month:
• Over two-thirds (67%) confessed to talking on a cell phone and 21% admitted to reading or sending a text message.
• Nearly 90% said that texting or e-mailing while driving was a serious safety threat, but 18% admitted to doing the same.
• While 58% said that talking on a cell phone while driving was dangerous, the majority of polled drivers (55%) admitted to using a cell phone while driving.
• Nine out of 10 people considered running a red light unacceptable, but 26% of those same people admitted to running a red light in the previous 30 days.
• More than 90% of people said tailgating was unacceptable, yet 24% of those same people admitted to tailgating other drivers.
• Speeding (15 mph or more over the speed limit) was deemed dangerous by 63% of respondents, but 28% of those same people admitted to doing so in the previous month. Ninety-five percent considered speeding in a residential area dangerous, yet 21% of those same respondents confessed to do so in the past month.
A previous AAA Foundation study found that two out of three drivers mistakenly believe that using a hands-free cell phone is safer than talking on a hand-held device. In this survey, the use of a hands-free cell phone was the only behavior that more than half of all drivers rated as acceptable, yet numerous studies have shown it as equally as dangerous as talking on a hand-held phone – both quadruple the risk of being involved in a crash.
“The same motorists who would never consider drinking and driving somehow think it’s okay to e-mail or text while driving,” added Mount. “We need to stigmatize distracted driving to the same degree as drunk driving in our culture.
“This survey shines the light on drivers behaving badly, but it also raises some dangerous public misconceptions. Our goal is to encourage drivers to take responsibility for their own actions behind the wheel.”
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