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AAA Study: Drivers Using Cell Phones Exhibit Other Bad Behaviors

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Drive with Care, from cover of of AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety's 2012 Traffic Safety Culture Index

“Drive with Care.” (From the cover of AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s 2012 “Traffic Safety Culture Index.”)

A new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that people who use cell phones while driving often exhibit other bad driving behaviors. As AAA writes in its 2012 Traffic Safety Culture Index:

For the fifth consecutive year the Foundation has conducted a national survey of driver  attitudes and behaviors. As in previous years, the Index highlights aspects of the current traffic safety culture that might be characterized as a culture of indifference, where drivers effectively say ‘do as I say, not as I do.’

The report is based on a survey of 3,896 U.S. residents ages 16 and older, using “a web-enabled probability-based panel representative of the United States population” and was conducted from September 7, 2012, through September 24, 2012, by GfK for the AAA Foundation.

Richard Read writes for The Car Connection that humans are very irrational:

… [W]hile a whopping 89% of those surveyed agreed that other drivers using cell phones posed a threat to their safety, an also-whopping 69% reported chatting on a cell phone themselves while driving within the past 30 days.

The study finds that people who use their cells phones “fairly often” or “regularly” while driving admit to the following:

  • 65% said that they had broken the speed limit.
  • 53% said that they had sent text messages and/or emails (even though 95% of respondents disapproved of such practices).
  • 44% said that they have driven while drowsy.
  • 29% said that they had not worn their safety belt.

Conversely, the study found that people who said they did not use a cell phone while driving are safer drivers:

  • 31% said that they had broken the speed limit.
  • 3% said that they had sent text messages and/or emails.
  • 14% said that they had driven drowsy.
  • 16% said that they had not worn their safety belt.

AAA notes that although the 2011 statistics show that the number of people killed in car accidents is the lowest it has been since 1949, in 2011 an average of 89 people were killed on a typical day in the U.S. as a result of vehicle accidents.

Among some of AAA’s findings:

  • There is strong support for requiring ignition interlock devices for drivers convicted of driving while intoxicated, and nearly three out of four people would like to see built-in interlocks in all new vehicles.
  • Although most drivers believe it is unacceptable to drive through a traffic light that just turned red, nearly two of every five drivers admits to having done so in the past month.
  • Although most drivers view drowsy driving as a completely unacceptable behavior, nearly one in three admit that at some point in the past month, they have driven when they were so tired they could not keep their eyes open.
  • More than four of five Americans support requiring all motorcyclists to wear a helmet.

In an article for Torque News entitled, “Why use phones in cars when it’s seen as unsafe?,” Don Bain quotes Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety:

Ninety percent of respondents believe that distracted driving is a somewhat or much bigger problem today than it was three years ago, yet they themselves continue to engage in the same activities. More work clearly is needed to educate motorists on the risks associated with using a cell phone while driving, especially given that most Americans believe this problem is becoming worse.

Read notes that the number of deaths caused by distracted driving is increasing;  3,331 traffic deaths were attributed to distracted driving in 2011, an increase of 1.9% over 2010. He writes that AAA hopes that the 11 states without texting bans will consider such measures this year. According to Distraction.gov, Colorado bans all cell phone use (hand-held and hands-free) for novice drivers, and bans texting for all drivers.

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