Motorists who use cell phones while driving are more likely to engage in additional dangerous behaviors such as speeding, driving drowsy, driving without a seatbelt and sending texts or emails, according to a survey from the 2012 Traffic Safety Culture Index conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Additionally, more than two-thirds (69 percent) of licensed drivers reported talking on a cell phone while driving within the last month despite the fact that nearly nine-in-ten respondents (89 percent) believe other drivers using cell phones are a threat to their personal safety.
“Ninety percent of respondents believe that distracted driving is a somewhat or much bigger problem today than it was three years ago, yet they themselves continue to engage in the same activities,” said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “More work clearly is needed to educate motorists on the risks associated with using a cell phone while driving, especially given that most Americans believe this problem is becoming worse.”
“Southern California drivers should pay attention, focus on driving and take control of their own safety behind the wheel by deciding not to drive while distracted in any way, including eating, reading, grooming, talking on a cell phone, or texting while driving,” according to the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Manager of Community Programs & Traffic Safety Anita Lorz Villagrana.
“Taking your eyes off of the road for just a few seconds for whatever reason significantly increases your risk of a crash or near-crash. And sending texts takes your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel and your mind off the task of driving,” she added. “It’s simply not worth of risk of hurting yourself or others.”
In the study, motorists who fairly often or regularly used their cell phones over the last month also reported that they engaged in additional risky behaviors. The research shows:
- 65 percent also reported speeding
- 44 percent also reported driving while drowsy
- 53 percent also reported sending a text or email
- 29 percent also drove without a seatbelt
Conversely, drivers that reported never using a cell phone were much less likely to report additional risky behaviors:
- 31 percent reported speeding
- 14 percent reported driving drowsy
- 3 percent reported sending a text or email
- 16 percent drove without a seatbelt
Despite the near-universal disapproval of texting and emailing while driving (95 percent), more than one-in-four licensed drivers (27 percent) reported sending a text or email at least once in the past 30 days, and more than one-third (35 percent) said they read a text or email while driving. Young drivers age 16-24 were even more likely with more than half (61 percent) reporting having read a text or email while driving in the past month, while more than one-in-four (26 percent) reported checking or updating social media while driving.
“What concerns AAA is this pattern of risky behavior that even goes beyond cell phone use,” said Kathleen Bower, AAA vice president of public affairs. “These same cell phone-using drivers clearly understand the risk of distraction, yet are still likely to engage in a wide range of dangerous driving activities.”
Driver use of cell phones impairs reaction times and roughly quadruples crash risk. Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that more than 3,000 people are killed and nearly half a million are injured each year in crashes involving distraction. This is likely an underestimate given the challenges associated with determining the role of distraction in crashes.
AAA offers several tools to help discuss the dangers of distracted driving with teens. For more information, parents and teens may visit TeenDriving.AAA.com.
AAA and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety have long been leading advocates in educating motorists about the risks of distracted driving. AAA recommends that motorists turn off their phone before driving or pull over to a safe place to talk, send texts or use email. AAA also has launched a legislative campaign to advocate for a text messaging ban in all 50 states. To date, 39 states and the District of Columbia have adopted this key traffic safety measure and AAA expects all 11 remaining states to consider this legislation in 2013.
The distraction data were collected as part of the AAA Foundation’s 2012 Traffic Safety Culture Index, a nationally representative, probability-based survey of 3,896 U.S. residents ages 16 and older. The sample is representative of all U.S. households reachable by telephone or by regular mail. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety provides additional details in the 2012 Traffic Safety Culture Index and as part of a report called Distracted and Risk-Prone Drivers.