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Jul/Aug 2009 Issue

Aggressive driving a factor in up to 56 percent of fatal crashes, AAA finds

More than half of deadly vehicle crashes involve one or more unsafe driving behaviors typically associated with aggressive driving, according to a new analysis released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data shows that as many as 56 percent of fatal crashes involve an unsafe behavior that could be characterized as aggressive, such as running a stop sign, failure to yield or illegal driving on the shoulder. Speeding is the most common contributing factor and is involved in nearly one in three deadly crashes, the study found.

Aggressive driving is one of America’s main traffic safety worries. Last year’s AAA Foundation Traffic Safety Culture Index, a nationally-representative telephone survey, found nearly eight out of every 10 people surveyed rated aggressive drivers as a serious or extremely serious traffic problem.

However, in the same survey, many individuals reported driving in ways that could be deemed aggressive. For example, nearly half of drivers reported exceeding the speed limit by 15 mph on major highways in the past 30 days, and 15 percent even admitted exceeding the speed limit by 15 mph on neighborhood streets. This reflects the “Do as I Say, Not as I Do” attitude society has toward traffic safety.

“It’s easy to think ‘that other guy is the problem’–the one who runs someone off the road, tailgates or yells obscenities,” said AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger. “In reality, examples of driving aggressively–any of which can lead to crashes, injuries and deaths–are all too common.”

The goal in releasing these findings is to educate motorists about the scope of aggressive driving, as well as encourage motorists to reevaluate their own driving behavior, and ultimately to improve this country’s traffic safety culture.

“If you find yourself driving slowly in the passing lane, tailgating, or doing other things to teach the other driver a lesson, you are also part of the problem,” he said.

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Whiz kids compete in AAA’s hands-on auto repair contests

With the opening call “Start your engines, if you can,” teams of student technicians raced to inoperative Ford vehicles this spring in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi to be the first to repair their vehicles, be named the top technicians in their states and ultimately vie for the national championship.

The annual Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition gives high school automotive technology students a chance to showcase their knowledge and skills by fixing the same types of automotive problems they will encounter in the real world. As an incentive to students to pursue automotive careers, more than $10 million in scholarships is at stake in the state and national contests.

To participate, students must qualify on the state level by taking a written exam. The top students then compete in the hands-on contest, in which two-person teams race to repair deliberately bugged cars. The 10 faults in the vehicle, in addition to not being able to start, include ignition problems and other issues that affect the smooth performance of the engine. Students must find and repair all of the faults to win, and scores are based on their time and accuracy.

In Louisiana, Jesse Arriaga and Brenton Dejean of Tioga High School in Pineville were named the state’s top student technicians by winning the contest in Alexandria. Their instructor is Brian Branch.

The top team in Mississippi was William Wall and David Edwards of Clinton High School in Clinton. The contest was held in Jackson, and their instructor is Charlie Melton.

In Arkansas, Nolan and Brandon Hidalgo of Jacksonville High School were named state champs at the contest in Batesville. Their instructor is Shawn Poindexter.

By winning the hands-on contest in their states, the students received a choice of scholarships from several technical institutes. Also, the winners received an expenses-paid trip to Dearborn, Mich., to represent their states in the national championship, which was held in late June after press deadline for this issue.

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Students racing to diagnose and repair a car in the Louisiana contest.

 

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