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May/June 2015 Issue

Crashes touch one-third of motorists, but many still take risks behind the wheel

Too many Americans report that they regularly speed, run red lights, use distracting devices, or drive drowsy, despite the fact that one in three has a loved one who has been seriously injured or killed in a crash, according to the AAA Foundation’s latest Traffic Safety Culture Index.

The annual survey, which assesses the attitudes and behaviors of drivers, also found that unsafe actions persist even though one in five drivers has been involved in a serious crash, and one in 10 has been seriously injured in a crash.

“It is very disappointing that we continue to see a prevailing attitude of ‘do as I say, not as I do,’ where large numbers of motorists seem to recognize the risks of certain behaviors but do them anyway,” said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Enhancing the safety culture in society must begin with each individual.”

The most recent findings revealed that the prevalence of unsafe driving behaviors during the previous 30 days were widespread, including:

  • Red light running: More than a third (36 percent) of drivers admit to running red lights, yet 55 percent say it is a very serious threat and 73 percent say it is completely unacceptable.
  • Speeding (10+ mph) on residential streets: Nearly half of drivers report speeding (44 percent), yet 65 percent say it is completely unacceptable.
  • Drowsy driving: About three in 10 drivers (29 percent) admitted to drowsy driving, yet 81 percent say it is completely unacceptable.
  • Texting/emailing: More than a quarter (27 percent) of drivers report typing or sending a text or e-mail, yet 79 percent of drivers say it is a very serious threat to safety and 84 percent say it is completely unacceptable.

When it comes to specific distracted driving behaviors in the past 30 days:

  • two in three drivers reported talking on their cell phone
  • one in three drivers reported talking on their cell phone often
  • one in three drivers admitted to reading a text message or e-mail

The findings also offered insight about drivers’ attitudes related to cognitive distraction. Two-thirds of drivers believe hands-free phone use is acceptable, and nearly half of drivers who report using speech-based in-vehicle systems say they do not believe these systems are distracting. These results are prevalent despite extensive research indicating that hands-free devices can lead to dangerous cognitive distraction.

“Despite the growing body of research that offers evidence about the possible dangers of using hands-free technologies, most drivers don’t understand the risks and continue to use these technologies,” said Kissinger.


One in five drivers has been involved in a crash, yet many report speeding, running red lights, and using distracting devices behind the wheel.


Teens face 100 deadliest days of driving during summer

With deadly traffic crashes peaking for all drivers–and especially teens–from Memorial Day through Labor Day, AAA urges parents of novice drivers to increase their focus on safety during the summer.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States, and the approximate 100 days of the summer are especially dangerous for teen drivers. In 2013, June, July, and August had higher teenage crash deaths than other months during the year, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“During summer months, teens have more free time, and they feel more care-free,” said Mike Right, vice president of AAA Public Affairs. “Parents must realize that there is no summer break from safety and to be vigilant about enforcing rules with their teens.”

The best way for new teen drivers to gain experience is through parent-supervised practice. Even after a teen has a license that allows solo driving, parents should occasionally drive with their teens to help them manage increasingly more complex driving conditions.

Parents also should limit the number of teen passengers. Compared to driving without any passengers, a teen’s fatal crash risk quadruples when carrying three or more passengers younger than 21 and doubles with two. Also, fatal teen crashes are most frequent between 3 and 8 p.m. but remain high until midnight, so parents should limit teen driving at night.

To help set clear rules, AAA offers a parent-teen driving agreement at The site offers a variety of tools for parents and teens as they progress through the learning-to-drive process.


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