Motorists rank distracted driving as biggest threat

Thirty-five percent of drivers said they feel less safe than they did five years ago, according to the second-annual 2009 Traffic Safety Culture Index released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Overall, most American motorists report that they feel no safer now than they did five years ago.

Distracted driving was top-of-mind for motorists, with 80% of motorists rating distracted driving as a very serious threat to their safety. Even those who admitted to distracted driving acknowledged they were putting themselves in danger. For example, more than half of those who admitted to reading or sending text messages or e-mails while driving indicated they were much more likely to have an accident.

These are highlights from the 2009 index:

•90% of respondents said people driving after drinking alcohol was a very serious threat to their safety; 87% said the same about text messaging or e-mailing while driving.

•80% of motorists rated distracted driving as a very serious threat to their safety, yet many admitted performing distracted behaviors like talking on the cell phone or texting or e-mailing while driving within the past month.

•Over two-thirds admitted to talking on a cell phone and 21% admitted to reading or sending a text message or e-mail while driving in the past month.

•Nearly 90% said texting or e-mailing while driving was a very serious threat to safety, yet 18% of those same people admitted texting in the past month.

•58% said talking on a cell phone while driving was a very serious threat to safety, yet 55% of those same people reported talking on cell phones while driving in the past month.

•Nine out of 10 people considered running a red light unacceptable, yet 26% of those same people admitted to running a red light.

•Nine out of 10 people considered tailgating unacceptable, yet 24% of those same people admitted to tailgating in the past 30 days.

•63% considered speeding 15 mph or more on the highway unacceptable, yet 28% of those same people admitted doing so in the past month.

•Fully 95% of people rated speeding 15 mph or more over the speed limit on residential streets unacceptable, yet 21% of those same people admitted doing so in the past month.

A previous AAA Foundation survey found two out of three drivers mistakenly believe using a hands-free cell phone is safer than talking on a hand-held device. In this survey, use of a hands-free cell phone was the only behavior more than half of all drivers rated as acceptable, yet numerous other studies have shown it is equally as dangerous as talking on a hand-held phone—both quadruple the risk of being in a crash.

For more information, visit www.AAAFoundation.org.

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