AAA logoAAA finds that Americans have become less concerned about dangerous driving behaviors, even though there has been an estimated 5.3% increase in traffic fatalities in the last year, totaling more than 34,000 in 2012, according to an AAA press release. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says this is the first increase in traffic deaths in seven years, AAA writes.

AAA made its findings, announced yesterday, by analyzing four years of public surveys conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAAFTS). Peter Kissinger, the Foundation’s President and CEO, said: “Motorists may be growing more complacent about potential safety risks behind the wheel.” He added: “A ‘do as I say, not as I do’ attitude remains common with many motorists consistently admitting to engaging in the same dangerous behaviors for which they would condemn other drivers.”

Kissinger told Forbes that the results might mean that Americans feel the risk of dangerous driving has decreased, or “perhaps” they feel that fewer people are involved in those risky behaviors. But he said that AAA saw an increase in self-reported behaviors, writes Micheline Maynard for Forbes.

In an Associated Press article appearing on, Joan Lowy writes that AAA’s findings are based on 100,000 interviews from 2009 to 2012 with people of driving age, and that AAA says some of the people might have been interviewed more than once over the four years.

AAA’s findings include the following:

  • The number of people who believe driving after drinking is a serious threat declined from a near universal 90 percent in 2009 to 69 percent in 2012.
  • The number of people who consider drowsy driving a very serious threat declined from 71 percent in 2009 to 46 percent in 2012.
  • The number of people who believe that texting or emailing while driving is a very serious threat declined from 87 percent in 2009 to 81 percent in 2012. The number of people who admit to texting while driving increased from 21 percent to 26 percent during the same period.
  • The number of people who consider red-light running to be completely unacceptable declined from 77 percent in 2009 to 70 percent in 2012. More than one-third (38 percent) admitted to running a red light within the previous month.

Jake Nelson, AAA director of traffic safety advocacy and research, said that despite great strides in recent years, “It is clear that more must be done to address the dangers of drunk, aggressive and drowsy driving to stem this concerning trend.” He said there are still “too many needless fatalities” caused by dangerous driving.

In a related post published on Wednesday on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fast Lane blog, Anne Ferro, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), writes about the need to develop a national safety culture. Ferro spoke about the topic on Tuesday at the Transportation Research Board’s National Roadway Safety Culture Summit in Washington, D.C. She writes: “This safety culture will help us combat one of the most challenging public health issues our nation faces today: the high number of traffic crashes and resulting roadway injuries and deaths.”

FMCSA, along with NHTSA, the Federal Highway Administration, and the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, last year published an “overarching” plan to significantly reduce injuries and deaths on the roads, Ferro writes. The U.S. DOT Roadway Safety Plan, as it is called, is comprised of six principles: collaboration, safer behaviors, safer vehicles, safer roadways, empowering communities, and ensuring accountability. It says that everyone has a role in keeping the roads safe.

Ferro concludes her post with the following:

Each and every decision we make on the road is important. Whether you are staying off the road when you’re tired, putting down your phone and concentrating on driving, or talking to your family and friends about driving smart, safety begins with you. The most important opportunity to effect change is with our own actions. As we drive forward with the vision of zero deaths, we all must recognize the role we play in roadway safety.

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