AAA: Distracted driving is worse than aggressive, drugged, drunk driving

Hill Street Blues’ Sgt. Phil Esterhaus would end his roll call on the popular 1980s police series with some sage advice to his fellow officers: “Hey . . . let’s be careful out there.”

Although he wasn’t talking about distracted driving on the nation’s roadways, perhaps he should have been.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, in its annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, reports distracted driving now tops the list of growing dangers on our roads, surpassing aggressive drivers, drugged drivers, and drunk drivers.

In fact, 88% of drivers in the survey contend distracted driving is on the rise.

First released a decade ago, the Traffic Safety Culture Index identifies, and measures attitudes and behaviors Americans related to traffic safety.

Interestingly, the survey, in recent years, has identified a ‘disconnect’ between what drivers do on the road and what they believe.

In fact, 9 out of 10 drivers nationwide reflect this “Do-As-I-Say, Not-As-I-Do” attitude and report engaging in one of the survey’s risky behaviors during the previous month even though they feel it’s unacceptable.

For example:

  • Nearly half (49%) report they’ve talked on handheld cellphones while driving; and more than a third (35%) admit they’ve sent a text or email, even though most believe it’s wrong to do so while driving.
  • 85% consider it unacceptable to drive 10 miles an hour over the speed limit on a residential street; however, 47% have done so in the last month.
  • 92% saying driving through a red light when they could have stopped in unacceptable; 43% did so in the last month;
  • 95% view driving drowsy as unacceptable; but 3 in 10 admit to driving when they were so tired they had a difficult time keeping their eyes open at some point last month.
  • 94% consider driving after drinking alcohol a serious threat to their personal safety; however, 13% reported driving at least once in the past year when they thought their alcohol levels might have been close to or possibly over the legal limit.

“With more than 37,000 deaths on US roads in 2016, we need to find ways to limit driving distractions and improve traffic safety,” said Lloyd Albert, AAA Northeast senior vice president of public and government affairs.  “Any level of risk is too high when it comes to safe driving.”

When behind the wheel, AAA urges drivers to act responsibly:

  • Put aside electronic distractions and refrain from using text messaging, email, video games or internet functions, including those built into the vehicle, while driving.
  • Pre-program your GPS; adjust seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before driving.
  • Properly secure children and pets; and store loose possessions and other items that could roll around in the car.

The survey data are from a sample of 2,613 licensed drivers ages 16 and older, who reported driving in the past 30 days. The full report is online at www.AAAFoundation.org.

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