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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Survey Reveals Differences In What U.S. Drivers Say and What They Do

Nearly Ten Percent Admit to Driving Drunk Within the Past Month, According to the AAA Foundation's 2008 Traffic Safety Culture Index

According to a recent report by the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety, American drivers blame other motorists for unsafe driving, despite the fact many admit to doing the same dangerous practices themselves. Here's an example: Americans rated drunk drivers as the most serious traffic safety issue, yet nearly 10 percent of motorists admitted to driving when they thought their blood alcohol content was over the legal limit.

"Where’s the outrage? Every 13 minutes, someone dies on America's roads, yet the nation seems complacent about these preventable tragedies," demanded Peter Kissinger, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety CEO. "The 2008 Traffic Safety Culture Index makes clear that while motorists are quick to blame the 'other guy' for deadly practices like drunk, aggressive or distracted driving, too often those pointing the finger are themselves part of the problem. When almost 10 percent of motorists admit to recently driving after drinking too much alcohol, the problem is much worse than people think. We need a big red flag to focus all stakeholders on real solutions for highway safety. Instead, we seem to be waving the white flag of surrender by largely accepting the carnage of forty thousand deaths on the road each year."

The leading killer of people from the ages of 2 to 34 are traffic accidents, and with the sole exception of 1992, the overall death toll on U.S. roadways consistently exceeds 40,000 every single year since the early 1960's. With these figures in hand, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety launched its first-annual survey of the driving public on a wide variety of issues. Here are highlights from the 2008 Traffic Safety Culture Index:

• Three out of four of motorists think that they are more careful than others behind the wheel.

• 82 percent of motorists believe distracted driving to be a serious problem, yet over half of those same individuals owned up to talking on the cell phone while driving, and 14 percent even confessed to reading or sending text messages while driving.

• More than seven out of ten drivers rated red light running as a serious problem, yet over half of those same respondents admitted to speeding up to get through yellow lights, and 5 percent even acknowledged to having knowingly run a red light in the past month.

• Almost three out of every four drivers rated speeding as a serious problem, yet 40 percent of those same drivers acknowledged to driving 15 mph or more over speed limit on the highway in the past month, and 14 percent even confessed to having driven 15 mph or more over the limit on a local street.

More than documenting the difference between what drivers say and what they actually do while driving, the 2008 Traffic Safety Culture Index also revealed:

•Nearly one of every four drivers interviewed reported having been injured in a crash at some point in their lives, and almost one in three reported having had a close friend or relative killed or permanently disabled in a crash.

• In reality, Americans have no idea how many people die annually in crashes. More than one in four Americans guessed that 10,000 or fewer people died annually in crashes, 14 percent estimated that the number was over 100,000, and another one in four wouldn’t even venture a guess. In total, only one in three Americans said somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 people die each year in motor vehicle crashes in the U.S.

"All of us should work to build a better traffic safety culture," said Kissinger, "where more than 40,000 deaths annually is NOT considered acceptable, where in conjunction with tougher laws, safer cars and better engineering, individuals take responsibility for their own driving instead of blaming the other guy. Known counter-measures could be put into practice today to cut the death toll on American's roads in half. Buckle up, pass the keys to a sober driver, put down the cell phone or sandwich, slow down to legal speeds, be courteous and stay alert – it's not rocket science, it's common sense. As we pressure regulators, lawmakers, law enforcement officials, highway engineers and automakers to do even more to make driving safer – individual motorists – all of us – must also shoulder the responsibility and police ourselves to be safer, smarter drivers. Without such a commitment, highway deaths will continue at epidemic proportions and nothing will change."

Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is an independent, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety commissioned NuStats LLC to conduct a random telephone survey of 2,509 U.S. adults in English and Spanish from October 25, 2007 through January 10, 2008. Statistics based on the full sample have a margin of error of plus or minus approximately 2.0 percent, at the 95 percent confidence level. Statistics based on a subset of the full sample are associated with a slightly higher margin of error. Statistics cited here have a margin of error of between 2.6 and 4.9 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. The full report "2008 Traffic Safety Culture Index" is available online at

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