Public Less Concerned With Dangerous Driving Behaviors

October 15, 2013

There have been two trends that should be disturbing to any motorist — especially long-haul truckers who spend the majority of their time on the highway.

The first is an uptick in road deaths for the first time in seven years of a steady downward trend in traffic deaths.

The second is that Americans are less to perceive a serious threat from dangerous driving behaviors such as drunk, aggressive or drowsy driving, according to an analysis of four years of public surveys conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The decreased concern is accompanied by an estimated 5.3% increase in annual traffic fatalities, totaling more than 34,000 in 2012. This is the first annual increase in seven years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

"Motorists may be growing more complacent about potential safety risks behind the wheel," said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "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."

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety analyzed four years (2009-2012) of survey data collected for the annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, which tracks how the public's views and perceptions of traffic safety issues change over time. More than 11,000 surveys were administered to Americans aged 16 and up from 2009-2012 to determine the results.

Survey results during the previous four years show decreasing concern for dangerous driving behaviors:

- The number of people who believe driving after drinking is a serious threat declined from a near universal 90% in 2009 to 69% in 2012.

- The number of people who consider drowsy driving a very serious threat declined from 71% in 2009 to 46% in 2012.

- The number of people who believe that texting or emailing while driving is a very serious threat declined from 87% in 2009 to 81% in 2012. The number of people who admit to texting while driving increased from 21% to 26% during the same period.

- The number of people who consider red-light running to be completely unacceptable declined from 77% in 2009 to 70% in 2012. More than one-third (38%) admitted to running a red light within the previous month.

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

Someone dies on America's roadways every 15 minutes. Fatalities include drivers, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists and every other kind of road user. Car crashes kill more people aged 5-34 than any other cause of death. More than 2.3 million people annually also suffer serious injuries from crashes, the AAA Foundation points out.

Established by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit, publicly supported charitable educational and research organization. Dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on our roads, the Foundation's mission is to prevent crashes and save lives through research and education about traffic safety.

The Foundation has funded over 200 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes, prevent them, and minimize injuries when they do occur. Visit for more information on this and other research.

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