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Actions Speak Louder than Words in Traffic Safety

A study released this month by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAA) suggests that one simple problem has a significant impact on the number of traffic fatalities and other crashes on U.S. roads–when it comes to driving, our actions aren’t consistent with our beliefs.

In other words, many drivers acknowledge that certain behaviors are dangerous or unacceptable, say those close to them also disapprove of those behaviors, and then go ahead and engage in them.

Disconnect Between Beliefs and Traffic Safety Activity

75.8% of people surveyed said that texting or emailing on a cell phone while driving was extremely dangerous. Another 20.4% said it was very dangerous, and 3.1% moderately dangerous. That’s 99.3% saying texting or emailing while driving is at least moderately dangerous, and 96.2% saying it’s at least very dangerous.

67.3% of the same group said they believed people who are important to them would completely disapprove of texting or sending an email while driving, and 27.3% said they would somewhat disapprove. Just 5.4% thought the people they valued most would approve of texting or emailing in traffic.

86.1% said they supported laws against holding a cell phone to read, type, or send a text message or email while driving.

You might expect that with more than 96% of drivers surveyed calling the behavior dangerous and more than 94% saying those they cared about would disapprove, most of the same pool would avoid texting or emailing behind the wheel. And, most do. But, not nearly as many as view the behaviors as dangerous and socially unacceptable.

29.3% of those surveyed said they’d texted or emailed while driving at least once in the past 30 days. About ⅔ of those said they’d done so at least a few times during that 30-day period.

This disconnect extends beyond distracted driving. For instance, 28.7% of respondents said driving 15 miles per hour over the speed limit was extremely dangerous. But, 33% of those who called the behavior “extremely dangerous” said they’d exceeded the speed limit by at least 15 mph at least once in the previous 30 days. Similarly, 17% of those who said driving while so tired you were having a hard time keeping your eyes open was extremely dangerous admitted having done so.

Drivers Who Engage in Risky Behaviors are More Likely to Crash

It’s probably no surprise that there’s a correlation between people who engage in dangerous behaviors on the road and traffic crashes. But, a good researcher doesn’t make assumptions, so the AAA study took a look at accident histories.

Drivers were more likely to have been in a traffic crash in the past two years if they admitted to having engaged in any of the following behaviors at least once in the previous 30 days:

  • Held and talked on a cell phone while driving
  • Read a text or email on a cell phone while driving
  • Typed or sent a text message or email while driving
  • Talked on a cell phone using hands-free technology
  • Driven 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway
  • Driven 10 mph over the speed limit on a residential street
  • Driven through a light that had just turned red when they could have stopped safely
  • Driven aggressively by switching lanes quickly
  • Ridden in a car with someone who had consumed too much alcohol
  • Driven shortly after using marijuana
  • Driven when using potentially impairing prescription drugs
  • Driven when they were so tired they had trouble keeping their eyes open

While there likely aren’t any big surprises in this study, there is one very clear message: the simplest way to reduce risk on the road and keep yourself and others safe is to do what you already know is right. Drivers who ignore safety and cause property damage, injuries, and death are typically liable for the harm they’ve done.

Attorney Kevin P. Broderick has spent decades fighting for the rights of injured people. To learn more about how we can help, call 978-459-3085 or fill out the contact form on this site. The initial consultation is free and there’s no obligation.