Americans want safer roads, and for the government to augment traffic safety, said the director of AAA Traffic Safety Culture.
Michele Harris said this conclusion comes from a recent national survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. In the survey, motorists agreed they’re part of the problem ... with their dangerous driving behaviors, she said. She said the new year is an opportune time to examine driving habits, and make a commitment to drive better in the future.
The U.S. Department of Transportation, she said, recently released an updated fatality and injury report, indicating that 32,885 people died in automobile crashes in 2010, which represents the lowest, yearly traffic-fatality total, on record, for the past 60 years.
“Even one death is unacceptable, especially to the more than 32,000 families who will never see their loved ones again,” said the director. “While the latest data reveals our safest year since 1949, on average, there is still one needless death every 16 minutes as a result of motor vehicle crashes.”
For the fourth straight year, the AAA Foundation’s Traffic Safety Culture Index indicates that 86 percent of drivers agree it’s unacceptable to drive without a seat belt, she said. Almost one in four motorists admit they’ve driven without a seat belt in the past 30 days.
Regarding speed limit issues, most drivers agree it’s not suitable to drive 10 mph over the limit on residential streets, but admit to doing so in the past month, she added.
These findings conclude that most drivers find comfort in blaming others, yet they admit to their own wrongdoings, said Harris.
“This ‘do as I say, not as I do’ attitude that persists among drivers, needs to change before we can experience a traffic-safety culture where safe driving is the norm,” added Peter Kissinger, traffic safety president and CEO of AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Below are some of the findings from the 2011 Traffic Culture Index.
• Drinking and driving
Seventy-six percent of drivers agree it’s a great danger to personal safety to drive after drinking alcohol, and 97 percent of motorists find it unacceptable, she said. More than 14 percent actually admit to driving at least once in the past year, when their alcohol levels could’ve been over the legal limit. Of these motorists, 21 percent have driven intoxicated within the last month, she explained.
• Cell phone use and texting
Texting and driving is considered a serious threat by 94 percent of motorists, though 35 percent have actually read a text or e-mail while driving in the past 30 days. Furthermore, 26 percent of drivers have sent a text message while driving in the prior month, she said.
In the past month, more than two-thirds of drivers have used their cell phones while driving, she explained. Thirty-one percent of these drivers said they do so regularly.
• Speeding and running a red light
Seventy-four of motorists think it is wrong to drive more than 15 mph over the speed limit on the freeway, yet 52 percent admit to doing so in the past month, said Harris. Driving 15 mph over the speed limit on residential streets is viewed very unfavorably by motorists, though 26 percent of drivers have done so in the past 30 days.
The majority of motorists, or 94 percent, agree that drivers shouldn’t drive through red traffic lights, though 37 percent have also done it in the past month, she said.
• Drowsy driving
There are 96 percent of drivers who consider it a danger to drive while feeling very sleepy, said Harris, though 32 percent admit to doing so in the past month.
• Safety belts
Twenty-three percent of drivers drove without wearing their seat belt in the past 30 days, and 19 percent say they’ve done so more than once, she said.
“The decrease in deaths on our nation’s roadways is great news, but we still have lots of work ahead of us,” said Harris. “If every motorist takes charge of their own actions in 2012, by consciously deciding to drive safer, we are moving in the right direction.”