The AAA Foundation released its annual Traffic Safety Culture Index report late last month, revealing that while public attitudes toward risky driving behaviors tend to be widely recognized and chastised, far fewer motorists actually practice what they preach.
Our Tuscaloosa car accident lawyers understand this double standard has long been noted by traffic safety officials. The question is how we work to go about turning beliefs into better behaviors.
Survey takers – nearly 4,000 in all, polled last September – put a premium value on roadway safety, holding firmly to the extensive data that reveals speeding, cell phone use, road rage and impairment are dangerous behind the wheel. As such, most support strong laws to restrict those kinds of actions and impose significant penalties on offenders.
And yet, they also admitted to engaging in these types of behaviors themselves.
This is significant because we know that one out of every five drivers has been involved in a bad crash, and one out of every eight has sustained a serious injury as a result.
With regard to drunk driving, nearly 65 percent of those questioned said that they believed alcohol impairment by other drivers put their personal safety at risk. A whopping 97 percent say they personally consider it unacceptable, with nearly 90 percent calling it “completely unacceptable.”
And yet, nearly 15 percent of drivers conceded that in the last year, they had driven when their own alcohol level was likely over the legal limit. Nearly 10 percent said they had done it more than once. Two percent admitted to having done so in the last 30 days.
Although the survey is anonymous, being that it’s self-reported, the actual rate is likely much higher.
Self-reported behind-the-wheel cell phone use was even higher. While three-fifths of all drivers say that talking on a cell phone is a direct and serious threat to their own safety, two-thirds admitted having done it themselves in the last month. More than 60 percent said they had done it more than once in the previous 30 days, and a third said they do so just about every day.
Additionally, more than 95 percent of those surveyed said that texting or reading e-mails behind the wheel posed a major safety threat. About the same number said it’s outright unacceptable. And yet, a third of all drivers admit to having done so themselves in the last month, and about 10 percent say they do it on a fairly regular basis.
Support for stricter cell phone laws was a bit more divided than for DUI, with about a quarter saying they would strongly support such measures and another quarter saying they would strongly oppose it. Most were in the middle.
Similar disparities were noted with attitudes toward speeding, particularly on the highway. While about 35 percent of people indicated that going more than 15 miles per hour above the speed limit on the freeway creates a serious danger to others, almost half said they have done so themselves in the last month.
With red light running, more than 90 percent considered it unacceptable, with nearly 70 percent calling it completely unacceptable. Yet 40 percent said they had done so themselves in the last month, with about a quarter saying they had done so more than one time in the last 30 days.
Attitudes toward the issue of sleepy driving followed this same pattern, with about 45 percent saying drowsy drivers were a major risk to their own safety, and nearly 100 percent saying it’s unacceptable to do so when a person is having trouble keeping their eyes open. And yet, nearly a third admit to having done this same thing in the last month, with nearly 20 percent saying they had been in this situation more than once during that same time frame.
2012 Traffic Safety Culture Index, January 2013, Annual Report, AAA Foundation