Stop me before I text and drive again!

Motorists apparently feel they have to be protected against themselves when it comes to distracted driving. They know, for example, that texting while driving is wrong. They agree that there should be laws against it. But a fair number of them do it anyway, according to a new study by AAA.

Results from AAA’s 2011 Traffic Safety Culture Index show that 95 percent of drivers surveyed are concerned about the risks of texting or e-mailing while driving — even slightly more so than drunk driving, which 93 percent said they were concerned about — and 87 percent support laws against reading or typing while driving.

And yet, 35 percent of those drivers ’fessed up to either reading or sending a text behind the wheel within the month before the survey.


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Drivers in the survey seemed to be consistently inconsistent in their opinions and practices. The survey found that 88 percent say other drivers talking on a phone is a danger — and 50 percent support laws against any cell-phone use while driving, hands-free or not — but 68 percent of them admitted to talking on a cell phone while driving over the previous 30 days.

“This research continues to illustrate a ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ attitude that persists among drivers and perpetuates the threat of cell phone use while driving,” Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said in a release accompanying the report. “Changing our nation's traffic safety culture requires drivers to take responsibility for their actions and alter their own behaviors on the road.”

AAA started a campaign in 2009 to encourage all states to adopt texting-while-driving bans and, to date, 34 states and the District of Columbia have enacted such laws.

But texting bans are only part of the solution, since some drivers have said they will call and text regardless of bans. A 2010 study even suggested that texting bans could increase accident rates, as drivers hold their phones out of sight, below the dashboard, and spend even less time looking at the road.

And AAA, like the National Highway Safety Administration, said the larger problem is distracted driving in general, such as eating, smoking, adjusting music, rubbernecking or dealing with children in the backseat. The survey found that drivers spend more than half their time behind the wheel engaged in distracted behavior.

So in addition to pushing for anti-texting laws, AAA is trying to raise awareness about the problem. Earlier this month it staged a Heads Up Driving Week to promote safety, and the organization is encouraging people to take the pledge to drive for a week without distractions, with the slogan, “Try it for a week, and do it for life.”

A further breakdown of AAA’s survey results:

Of those drivers who admitted to having talked on a cell phone while driving (68 percent of all drivers):

  • 55 percent admitted to answering calls more than half the time while stopped at a red light, and 31 percent said they make calls at red lights fairly often or regularly.
  • 44 percent admitted to answering calls while driving on a residential street with no traffic more than half the time, and 26 percent said they make calls on residential streets fairly often or regularly.
  • 28 percent admitted to answering calls while driving on a freeway with heavy traffic more than half the time, and 15 percent  said they make calls on a freeway with heavy traffic fairly often or frequently.

Of those who admitted to reading or typing text messages or e-mails while driving (35 percent of all drivers):

  • 54 percent admitted to reading text messages or e-mails while stopped at red lights fairly often or regularly, and 35 percent said they type text messages or e-mails while stopped at red lights fairly often or regularly.
  • 27 percent admitted to reading text messages or e-mails while driving on a residential street with no traffic fairly often or regularly, and 15 percent said they type text messages or e-mails while driving on a residential street fairly often or regularly.
  • 16 percent admitted to reading text messages or e-mails while driving on a freeway with heavy traffic fairly often or regularly, and 9 percent said they type text messages or e-mails while driving on a freeway in heavy traffic fairly often or regularly

 

Reader Comments

Fri, Oct 21, 2011 Joe

Uh Carl? How about you just put your cell phone away and wait until later when you are not driving instead of pointing to an alleged "egg mcmuffin" violator? Surely you must have overlooked 1000 others using cellphones/texting in order to find that one alleged egg mcmuffin violator? I'm just guessing on this one?

Fri, Oct 21, 2011 Erik Wood Seattle, WA

I think we live in a culture where business people need to 'hit the ball over the net'. Teens consider it rude not to reply immediately to texts. Home schedules would grind to a halt without immediate communication. We are conditioned to pursue this level of efficiency but we are all supposed cease this behavior once we sit in our respective 5,000 pound pieces of steel and glass. Anyone can win an argument in a forum like this by saying "Put the phone away" - but we can see its just not happening. I read that 72% of teens text daily - many text more 4000 times a month. New college students no longer have email addresses! They use texting and Facebook - even with their professors. Tweens (ages 9 -12) send texts to each other from their bikes. This text and drive issue is in its infancy and I think we need to do more than legislate. I decided to do something about distracted driving after my three year old daughter was nearly run down right in front of me by a texting driver. Instead of a shackle that locks down phones and alienates the user (especially teens) I built a tool called OTTER that is a simple GPS based texting auto reply app for smartphones. It also silences call ringtones while driving unless you have a bluetooth enabled. I think if we can empower the individual then change will come to our highways now and not just our laws. Erik Wood, owner OTTER LLC OTTER app

Fri, Oct 21, 2011 RIleyC Sacramento, CA

I have a software that I sell that will stop texting and picking up the cell phone whild driving. It will lock the phone so that it can not be used and and send an alert to the user and another person that the phone has been tried to be used while driving or going over 5 mile per hour. The cell phone can be used with a blue tooth head set and is abled to call for an emergency. The software is webed enabled and has other configurations.

Fri, Oct 21, 2011 Carl Huber DC Area

A pickup truck was weaving all over the highway on my commute this morning, I was sure a case of texting. I finally passed the guy and looked over to see that he appeared to be having trouble with his EggMcMuffin.
The sad truth is that we still accept and condone death by automobile, not just in the US but worldwide. Regardless of the tears shed over every individual death and debilitating injury, our ultimate behavior speaks for what we really believe in the end. Texting while driving will surely not change, just as other forms of recklessness are not going to change. We accept the risks and naively run around thinking unconsciously that “it won’t happen to me.”

Fri, Oct 21, 2011

Does anyone else see an omen of new safety regulations requiring "always off" of cell phones while in a vehicle? Cells phones and vehicles don't mix, period. I've lost count of the number of times people on cell phones have cut me off, obstructed traffic by going too slow, etc. The texters are the worst. However, I want to put in a plug for GPS use in motion - but by a passenger, if present. Hooking the sensor for seat belt warning to the GPS system shouldn't be a big deal. Enabling the wingman to be GPS navigator makes sense to me.

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