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Published Mar/Apr 2005

Poll finds how motorists feel on current issues

More than 900 AAA members responded to a poll about traffic safety issues and transportation concerns in the January/February issue of the “AAA Southern Traveler.” Both state and federal legislators are being advised by AAA of the opinions expressed by AAA members in Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi who responded to the poll.

GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS

Motorists’ attitudes toward governmental regulations all depend on the regulation. In the case of making seat belt use laws primary laws, where police officers can stop motorists for not wearing their seat belts, they say:

Primary seat belt use law
Favor 57% Oppose 43%

But when it comes to allowing police to use photo radar to take a photograph and mail the ticket to the offender, they say:

Photo radar
Favor 43% Oppose 57%

Yet when it comes to using cameras to photograph a vehicle violating red lights and mailing a ticket to the vehicle owner, they are favorably inclined:

Red light cameras
Favor 62% Oppose 38%

ALCOHOL AND HIGHWAY SAFETY

Decades ago, alcohol was identified as playing a major role in traffic deaths due to drunk drivers. When asked if fatal crashes involving drunk drivers increased, decreased or stayed the same in the past five years, half felt that the number had either decreased or stayed the same.

Over the past 20 years, great progress has been made in reducing the percentage of fatalities involving any alcohol. However, for the past five years, progress has stalled. In fact, the percentage nationwide has increased to 40 percent in 2003 from 38 percent in 1998. About one-third of the fatalities involve a driver who had a blood alcohol level above the state’s limit. Most of the responders to the poll (62 percent) expressed the perception of the involvement of drunk drivers as well below the actual percentage.

The age of drivers involved in drunk driving fatal crashes is generally perceived correctly by poll responders who say that the 21- 30-year-olds were the heaviest involved group.

Actual percentages of drivers of passenger vehicles killed who were drunk shows great variation by age.

Driver age Percent Drunk
21–30 years......................... 50%
31–40.................................... 46
41–50.................................... 39
51–60.................................... 25
16–20.................................... 25
60+........................................... 8

Many states have adopted a so-called “open container” law that prohibits an open container of alcohol to be accessible to the vehicle driver. Mississippi and Arkansas are not among the list of states. To the question, “Do you favor a law that prohibits open alcohol beverage containers within a motor vehicle?” 78 percent of the respondents were in favor of the law.

OPERATING COSTS

How much would the cost of gasoline have to get to before you would seriously consider making major changes in your lifestyle or driving habits to accommodate the higher prices?
$2.50.................................................. 17%
3.00..................................................... 16
3.50....................................................... 6
4.00....................................................... 5
More than $4.............. .........................4
Would not make change................. 15
Already made changes....................37

And what changes would be made?
Fewer/shorter leisure trips.........................41%
Buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle........ 31
Reduce driving by walking/cycling.......... 11
Carpooling..................................................... 7
Taking mass transit...................................... 6
Move closer to job........................................ 4

Compared to last year, 54 percent will be taking the same number of leisure trips; 37 percent will be reducing them and 9 percent will increase the number of leisure trips this year.

HIGHWAY PR0BLEMS/PRIORITIES

Compared to three years ago, motorists rate the condition of state highways in their area as:
Improved.................................................. 32%
Stayed the same..................................... 32
Declined................................................... 36

When asked to rate the most important highway improvement from among several choices, they rated as their highest priority the following:
Four laning of existing two-lane roads..... 39%
Eliminating commuter bottlenecks............ 27
Resurfacing existing four-lane roads....... 21
Adding more safety features..................... 10
Widening secondary road bridges............ 4

Of the five safety concerns from which motorists selected, their No. 1 choice was “distracted drivers.” Their concerns include:
Distracted drivers......................... 33%
Aggressive drivers...................... 23
Large trucks................................. 18
Drunk drivers............................... 16
Road conditions............................ 9


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