In The News
Sept/Oct 2009 Issue

Distracted driving is top reason many drivers feel less safe

More than one-third of drivers said they feel less safe than they did five years ago, according to the second annual 2009 Traffic Safety Culture Index performed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

In an effort to spark the dialogue about improving our safety culture and working toward the goal of zero deaths on the nation’s highways, the AAA Foundation recently launched its second annual survey of the driving public on a wide variety of issues. Distracted driving was top-of-mind for motorists, with 80 percent of motorists rating distracted driving as a very serious threat to their safety.

Even those who admitted to distracted driving acknowledged they were putting themselves in danger. For example, more than half of those who admitted to reading or sending text messages or e-mails while driving indicated they were much more likely to have an accident.

Following are some highlights from the 2009 Traffic Safety Culture Index:

  • 90 percent of respondents said people driving after drinking alcohol was a very serious threat to their safety; 87 percent said the same about text messaging or e-mailing while driving;
  • 80 percent of motorists rated distracted driving as a very serious threat to their safety, yet many admitted performing distracted behaviors like talking on the cell phone or texting or e-mailing while driving within the last month;
  • more than two-thirds admitted to talking on a cell phone and 21 percent admitted to reading or sending a text message or e-mail while driving in the past month;
  • nearly 90 percent said that texting or e-mailing while driving was a serious threat to safety, yet 18 percent of those same people admitted texting in the past month;
  • 58 percent said that talking on a cell phone while driving was a serious threat to their safety, yet 55 percent of those same people self-reported talking on cell phones while driving in the past month;
  • nine out of 10 people considered running a red light unacceptable, yet 26 percent of those same people admitted to running a red light;
  • nine out of 10 people considered tailgating unacceptable, but 24 percent of those same people admitted to tailgating in the past 30 days.


Highway deaths drop dramatically

The number of traffic fatalities in 2008 hit the lowest level in more than 45 years, and the number of deaths continued to decrease early this year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The number of traffic deaths hit 37,261 last year, a drop of almost 10 percent compared to 2007 and the lowest level since 1961. Declines occurred in nearly every major category except for motorcycle deaths, which now account for 14 percent of all highway fatalities.

The overall trend of fewer fatalities continued this year. NHTSA’s estimate of 7,689 traffic fatalities through March represents a 9-percent decline from a year ago.


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