According to a new survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, distracted driving tops USA motorists’ list of growing dangers on the road, with the organization’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index (TSCI) showing that 88% of drivers believe distracted driving is on the rise.
Distracted driving rates higher than other dangerous behaviors, such as aggressive driving (68%), drivers using drugs (55%), and drunk driving (43%). The proportion of drivers who report talking on a cell phone ‘regularly or fairly often’ when behind the wheel jumped 46% since 2013. Nearly half (49%) of drivers report recently talking on a hand-held phone while driving, and nearly 35% have sent a text or email. Despite their own behavior, nearly 58% of drivers say talking on a cellphone behind the wheel is a very serious threat to their personal safety, while 78% believe that texting is a significant danger. A recent study from the AAA Foundation shows drivers talking on a cellphone are up to four times as likely to crash, while those who text are up to eight times as likely to be involved in a crash.
The new survey results are part of the AAA Foundation’s annual TSCI, which identifies attitudes and behaviors related to traffic safety. The not-for-profit research organization issued its first TSCI in 2008, and the latest report reveals that drivers believe the problem of distracted driving has increased over the past three years, with nearly 50% reporting that they regularly see drivers emailing or texting while driving. Federal estimates show the number of distracted driving crashes has actually dropped 2%, but this may be due to the fact that it is difficult to detect distraction following a crash, which makes distracted driving one of the most underreported traffic safety issues. According to government estimates, distraction plays a factor in just 14% of all crashes. However, past AAA Foundation research looking into teenage drivers, one of the most vulnerable driving populations, used in-vehicle dash-cam videos to determine that distraction was a factor in 58% of crashes; 44% more than federal estimates.
“With more than 37,000 deaths on US roads in 2016, we need to continue finding ways to limit driving distractions and improve traffic safety,” said Dr David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Our work offers insight on drivers’ attitudes toward traffic safety and their behaviors, so we can better understand the issue and identify potential countermeasures to reduce crashes.”
Jake Nelson, AAA director of traffic safety advocacy and research, noted, “As the number of distractions behind the wheel increases, from the latest phone apps to in-vehicle technology, it is important that we better educate drivers on the dangers of distraction. There is a disconnect between what drivers do and what they believe. While most recognize the dangers created by taking your eyes off the road, they engage in distracting behaviors anyway, creating a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ culture on the roadway.”