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

 

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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