Driving and cell phone use don't mix

Motorists continue to talk and text on cell phones while driving, even though they are aware of the dangers, according to the 2011 Traffic Safety Culture Index of the AAA Foundation of Traffic Safety.

The survey shows that 95 percent of the nation’s drivers consider texting and e-mailing by other motorists to be a threat to personal safety, but 35 percent of these drivers admit to doing these actions in September, said Michele Harris, director of traffic safety culture for AAA Auto Club Group.

The percentage level of concern over cell phone use while driving, is slightly above the percentage of those concerned with drinking and driving, she added.

“The research shows drivers realize the use of cell phones while driving is dangerous,” she said. “Unfortunately, their reality falls short, because their belief is that only other people drive dangerously while talking/texting –– not themselves.”

She said, in order to better the nation’s traffic-safety culture, motorists must recognize and correct their wrong-doing.

“Additionally, 87 percent of drivers expressed support for having a law against reading, typing or sending a text message or [e-mail] while driving, and 50 percent of drivers support having a law against the use of any type of cell, hand-held or hands-free [device], for all drivers, regardless of age,” said Harris.

She said 88 percent also view talking on a phone as a threat to safety, although two-thirds of them admitted to talking on a phone while driving recently.

AAA and its Foundation for Traffic Safety will promote its “Heads Up Driving Week” campaign until Saturday, she said. The goal is to inspire motorists to pledge to a week of no distractions while driving.

She said distracted driving is still a top safety concern for various folks, including policymakers, safety advocates, law enforcement authorities and the public.

Harris said AAA launched a legislative campaign in 2009 to ban texting and driving in the U.S. Since then, 34 states and the District of Columbia have enacted anti-texting laws, she said.

“While we’re encouraged by the progress made to ban the dangerous practice of texting while driving in multiple states, we know there is still a lot of work to be done,” added Kevin Bakewell, spokesman for AAA Auto Club Group.