In February 2016, a non-profit organization released results of a study regarding risky driving behaviors. At the same time, there’s news that estimated traffic deaths for 2015 rose eight percent over 2014, the largest annual increase in 50 years.
The research, conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, found that approximately 87 percent of drivers engaged in one or more forms of risky behavior during the previous month, despite the fact that many of them report knowing a relative or a friend killed or seriously injured in car accidents. Furthermore, approximately 20 percent of those surveyed have been in a traffic accident in which one or more individuals required hospitalization.
For the study, researchers surveyed 2,442 licensed motorists at least 16-years old that had driven in the past 30 days. Researchers identified these types of risky behavior during the previous 30-day period:
- Distracted driving
- Excessive speed
- Drowsy driving
- Running red lights
- Not wearing seat belt
- Impaired driving
Distracted driving – Forty-two percent said they had read a text or email while driving, while 12 percent admit to doing this on a regular basis. Thirty-two percent agreed they had typed or sent a text or email in the last 30 days, and 8 percent admitted they engaged in such conduct often or regularly. Ironically, 80 percent of those surveyed agreed that distracted driving is more prevalent now than it was three years ago.
Excessive speed – Despite increased speed limits on many freeways across the country, 48 percent of motorists participating in the study admitted to exceeding the freeway speed limit by 15 mph or more. Fifteen percent agreed that they did this fairly often. Driving habits on residential streets are also problematic. Forty-five percent of drivers surveyed agreed that they exceed speed limits on such roadways by 10 mph or more. Eleven percent admit to doing this fairly often to regularly.
The AAA press release says that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that excessive speed is a factor in more than 10,000 traffic deaths per year, a significant percentage of all U.S. traffic fatalities.
Drowsy driving – Many drivers, 32 percent in fact, agreed that they had driven when they had trouble keeping their eyes open. A previous AAA study links fatigued or drowsy driving to more than 6,000 deaths every year.
Running red lights – The study revealed that 39 percent of drivers went through a red light when they know they could have stopped safely. Twenty-six percent of those surveyed said they has done this more than once during the past 30 days.
Seat belt use – Although Americans do us their seat belt the vast majority of the time, the AAA study reveals that there is room for improvement. Eighteen percent of drivers in the study say they failed to buckle up at least once in the past 30 days, and 15 percent say they didn’t buckle up multiple times. NHTSA estimates that about half of all 2013 traffic deaths involved unrestrained occupants.
Impaired driving – Despite the severe consequences and high costs often associated with DWI, 13 percent of those surveyed stated they had driven when they thought their BAC was probably near or above the legal limit. Nine percent said they did this multiple times. NHTSA links more than 10,000 traffic deaths per year to motorists with BAC levels at or above the legal limit of .08 percent.
About the Foundation
The non-profit AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is an educational and research organization founded in 1947. To date, it has funded over 300 traffic safety studies. AAA offers its Driver Improvement Program online and in the classroom. Motorists learn how to reduce their own risky behavior and that of their passengers.
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