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AAA: Crashes Don’t Deter Drivers from Taking Risks

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Feb. 10, 2015—Too many Americans report that they regularly speed, run red lights, use distracting devices or drive drowsy, despite the fact that one in three have 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 results of the study further find that unsafe behaviors persist even though one in five drivers have themselves 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," Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said in a release. "Enhancing the safety culture in society must begin with each individual."

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety's annual survey assesses and benchmarks the attitudes and behaviors of drivers revealed that the prevalence of unsafe driving behaviors during the previous 30 days are 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 45 percent say it is a very serious threat and 81 percent say it is completely unacceptable.

  • Texting/emailing: More than a quarter (27 percent) of drivers report typing or sending a text or email while driving, yet 79 percent of drivers say it is a very serious threat to safety and 84 percent say it is completely unacceptable.

The findings also offered insight about drivers' attitudes related to cognitive distraction. Two out of three drivers believe hands-free phone use is acceptable, and nearly half (46 percent) of drivers who report using speech-based in-vehicle systems say they do not believe these systems are at all distracting. These results are prevalent despite extensive research indicating that hands-free devices can lead to 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.  "The good news is that we all have the ability to make safer choices, and can personally enhance our safety while driving."

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety issued its first Traffic Safety Culture Index in 2008. The 2014 report is available at

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