Each year, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducts a survey of drivers age 16 and older to get a feel for the attitudes and behaviors that are affecting driving safety. In 2016, 2,511 drivers took the online survey, answering questions about highway dangers, acceptability of behaviors, knowledge and acceptance of laws and countermeasures, and frequency of risky driving behaviors. The current survey results are similar to those in past years, demonstrating that many drivers know what they shouldn’t do, but do it anyway.
Younger Drivers—But Not the Youngest—Take the Most Risks
The survey determined that it's not newly-licensed drivers who take risks. Drivers aged 16 to 18, while known to frequently make mistakes, don’t purposely do dangerous things while driving as often as older drivers. Drivers between the ages of 19 and 24 most often engage in dangerous behavior, including the following:
- Read and type text messages while driving
- Believe texting while driving is acceptable
- Don't support legislation to reduce driving distractions
In addition, 88 percent of survey takers from this age group reported having engaged in at least one risky behavior in the previous 30 days. These behaviors included texting while driving, running a red light, and speeding.
- The next age group of drivers—25 to 39—are the second riskiest at 79.2 percent.
- People between the ages of 40-59 are the third riskiest at 75.2 percent.
- Teens 16-18 are the fourth riskiest drivers at 69.3 percent—just slightly safer than drivers over 75 at 69.1 percent.
- The oldest group surveyed, 60- to 74-year-olds, are the safest at 67.3 percent.
Survey Keys in on Dangerous Driving Habits
The AAA survey asks respondents specific questions about their attitudes and actions regarding three driving behaviors that commonly lead to crashes causing injury and death. In general, their responses indicate that, while they understand that the behavior is dangerous, many do it anyway.
The dangerous behaviors discussed in the survey—and survey findings—are as follows:
- Distracted driving. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics from 2013, one in five injury crashes that year involved a distracted driver. They estimate that over 3,000 people were killed and 424,000 were injured in car crashes where the primary cause was driver distraction. Over 80 percent of the respondents to the AAA survey agreed that texting while driving is a very serious threat to safety, yet 40 percent admitted to reading a text or email while driving and 30 percent reported typing a message while driving. It's this “just one time” mentality that leads to tragedy.
- Impaired and drowsy driving. While rates of drunk driving crashes and fatalities have dropped over the years, alcohol was involved in 29 percent of fatal crashes in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Data from AAA indicates that drowsy driving is on the rise. They report that drowsy drivers were involved in 21 percent of fatal crashes in 2011, up from 16 percent the previous year. In the survey, nearly 30 percent of respondents reported dozing off behind the wheel in the previous 30 days.
- Aggressive driving. Behaviors such as running red lights, speeding, tailgating, and road rage fall under the aggressive driving category. SafeMotorist.com reports that 66 percent of traffic fatalities involve an aggressive driving behavior. The AAA survey found that two-thirds of drivers ran a red light in the previous month and nearly half admitted to driving more than 10 miles per hour above the posted speed limit. These responses came in despite survey takers reporting in large numbers that these actions are unacceptable.
The key to fewer traffic deaths seems to be to get people to practice what they preach. Knowing something is dangerous is not enough—drivers must resist the temptation to take risks, even if they only do so occasionally.
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