Drivers know certain behaviors are risky but engage in them anyway, survey shows

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Photo: Jennifer Yario

Washington — “Do as I say, not as I do” remains the guiding principle of many American drivers, according to the results of a recent survey conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Researchers surveyed more than 2,600 drivers ages 16 and older about their driving behaviors and attitudes. Results show that although a vast majority of respondents agree certain driving behaviors are dangerous to themselves and others, many do them anyway.

Among the findings:

  • Nearly 97 percent of respondents consider texting or emailing while driving a serious hazard. However, 45 percent reported that, in the month leading up to the survey, they had read a text message or email while driving, and 35 percent had sent a text message or email.
  • 88 percent said talking on cellphones while behind the wheel is dangerous, yet nearly 61 percent of drivers had talked on a hands-free cellphone and 49 percent talked on a handheld cellphone.
  • 88 percent said drowsy driving is a “serious” or “somewhat serious” threat to their safety and 95 percent said it is an unacceptable behavior, yet 31 percent admitted to driving when they were so tired they had difficulty keeping their eyes open.
  • 94 percent believe driving after drinking alcohol is a serious threat to their personal safety, yet 13.5 percent reported driving at least once in the past year when they believed their alcohol levels might have been close to – or possibly over – the legal limit.

According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, 10,497 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities occurred in 2016, up from 10,320 in 2015. In addition, the number of fatalities in speeding-related crashes in 2016 (10,111) rose 4 percent from 2015. Distraction-related crash fatalities decreased to 3,450 in 2016 from 3,477 in 2015.

Results of the survey were published in the foundation’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, released in March.

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