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Survey: Most Motorists Feel Less Safe Because of Distracted Driving

(LOS ANGELES, Sept. 26, 2010)  – As national Heads Up Driving Week starts today, 52 percent of drivers say they feel less safe on the roads now than they did five years ago, according to the third annual 2010 Traffic Safety Culture Index released by the Washington, D.C.-based AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The leading reason cited by American drivers was distracted driving, with 88 percent of motorists rating drivers who text and email as a very serious threat to their safety.
“As mobile technology evolves at a breakneck pace, more and more people rightly fear and recognize that distracted driving – texting, e-mails, phone calls and more – is a growing threat on the road. But, unfortunately, this new data confirms the “Do as I say, not as I do” attitude is prevalent throughout much of the driving public,” said AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger.
This sentiment was echoed by the Automobile Club of Southern California’s recently released texting while driving survey findings which found that texting behind the wheel appears to be about double where it was before California’s texting ban was implemented.  Among texters, young women were the most frequent group observed texting during the Auto Club study (4.3 percent texting at any time), while young men’s rate of texting stood at 2.1 percent.  By contrast, use of smart phones and other hand-held technology (iPods, etc.) was more the domain of young men – 3.1 percent versus 1.6 percent for young women.
The AAA foundation study showed that the majority of drivers (62 percent) feel that talking on a cell phone is a very serious threat to safety, but they do not always behave accordingly or believe that others share these views. In fact, nearly 70 percent of those surveyed admitted to talking on their phones and 24 percent said they read or sent text messages or emails while driving in the previous month. To help change the culture of complacency, the AAA Foundation and AAA are holding their second annual Heads Up Driving Week, from today through Oct. 2, to encourage drivers to drive distraction-free.
“Unlike the social stigma surrounding drinking and driving, driving while texting, emailing or talking on the phone aren’t perceived as egregious behaviors despite overwhelming scientific evidence of the serious crash risk these behaviors pose,” said Kissinger. “This year’s Traffic Safety Culture Index helps identify crucial disconnects between public perceptions and behaviors, an important step in helping the public understand the true risks of their actions.”
Traffic safety touches Americans’ lives with serious consequences. Half of survey respondents report having been involved in a serious crash, having had a friend or relative injured or killed in a crash, or both. In an effort to spark the dialogue about improving our safety culture and working toward the goal of zero deaths on our nation’s highways, the AAA Foundation launched its third-annual survey of the driving public on a wide variety of issues.
Highlights from the 2010 Traffic Safety Culture Index:
• Motorists rated distracted driving behaviors as some of the most serious threats to their safety, yet many
admitted to distracted behaviors like talking on the cell phone or texting or e-mailing while driving
• Nearly 90 percent identify texting or e-mailing while driving as a very serious threat and 80 percent
would support a law banning it
• Nine out of ten people personally consider texting or emailing while driving unacceptable and two-thirds
indicated that they would lose some respect for a friend who they saw engaging in those activities while driving
However, nearly a quarter of all those surveyed said they had read or sent a text or e-mail while driving in the last month
•Two-thirds report talking on a cell phone while driving as a very serious threat and nearly half would
support a law banning use of any phone while driving.  However, nearly 70 percent of all those surveyed admitted talking on phone while driving in the past month
•Motor vehicle crashes suddenly, prematurely and violently ends the lives of tens of thousands Americans each year – killing more of our children, teens and young adults than any other single cause,” continued Kissinger.
As part of AAA’s commitment to improving highway safety for its members and all road users, the organization launched a legislative campaign in 2009 to ban texting while driving in all 50 states. “AAA’s legislative campaign has helped lead 11 more states to enact laws against this risky driving behavior this year, bringing the total to 30 states and the District of Columbia,” said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. “But the AAA Foundation’s research points to the continued work needed to convince motorists to not engage in behavior that puts themselves, their passengers and others at risk.”
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The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.