A recent study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAA) revealed that one simple choice could significantly improve traffic safety: just do what you already know is right.
Dangerous Driving Behaviors
The 2019 Traffic Safety Culture Index, published in June, shows a dramatic disconnect between drivers’ beliefs and their actions. The survey looked at how drivers perceived distracted driving, aggressive driving behaviors (including excessive speed), and driving while drowsy or impaired. Respondents were also asked how they thought those close to them felt about those behaviors.
Nearly across the board, a significant percentage of drivers identified behaviors as dangerous, indicated they believed the people close to them disapproved of those behaviors, and then admitted to engaging in them.
Drivers surveyed identified most mobile device usage as “extremely dangerous” or “very dangerous.” For example:
- More than 95% said texting or emailing while driving was either very or extremely dangerous;
- More than 94% said reading on cell phones was either very or extremely dangerous;
- Nearly 80% said holding and talking on a cell phone was either very or extremely dangerous.
Unfortunately, they’re right. In 2019, the Ohio Distracted Driving Task Force (Task Force) reported that across a five-year period, there had been 65,934 reported distracted driving crashes in the state. These accidents resulted in 2,547 serious injuries and 216 deaths. But the Task Force believes these numbers under-represent the true dangers of distracted driving, since there is often no way to document distraction.
AAA survey respondents also overwhelmingly acknowledged social prohibitions on these behaviors. More than 85% said the people who were important to them would somewhat or completely disapprove of driving while holding and talking on a cell phone, and those percentages were much higher for more active distractions such as reading or sending text messages.
In other words, nearly everyone surveyed agreed that mobile device distractions on the road were dangerous, and that those close to them would disapprove of those behaviors.
Nonetheless, many admitted to engaging in those behaviors:
- More than 43% said they’d driven while holding and talking on a cell phone at least once in the previous 30 days;
- More than 29% said they’d typed or sent an email or text message while driving at least once in the previous 30 days;
- More than 38% admitted to reading text or email on their cell phones will driving at least once in the previous 30 days.
Interestingly, the distraction most drivers rates least dangerous–using hands-free technology–was also the least common.
For purposes of the survey, aggressive driving includes significantly exceeding the speed limit, driving through a light that had just turned red when the driver could have safely stopped, and switching lanes quickly and/or very close to another car.
Here’s how drivers surveyed rated these risks:
- More than 91% said aggressive lane changes were either very dangerous or extremely dangerous;
- More than 86% said unnecessarily driving through a red light that had just changed was either very or extremely dangerous;
- More than 55% said driving 15 mph over the speed limit on freeways was very or extremely dangerous;
- More than 63% said driving 10 mph over the speed limit on residential streets was very or extremely dangerous.
Again, these perceptions are supported by data. For instance, in one recent year, 21% of Ohio traffic fatalities occurred in speed-related crashes. And, again, drivers overwhelmingly agreed that the people who matter to them would disapprove of these behaviors.
While compliance was a bit better in this arena, nearly half of drivers surveyed said they’d driven 15 mph over the speed limit on the freeway in the past 30 days and more than 40% said they’d driven 10 mph over the speed limit in a residential area.
This section includes both alcohol-related impairment and impairment from fatigue, marijuana, and prescription drugs.
Assuming accurate reporting, in this arena, drivers were more likely to act on their perception of risk. Fewer than 10% of those surveyed admitted to having driven when they’d had too much to drink (defined as believing they might be over the legal limit), driven shortly after using marijuana, and driven while using potentially impairing prescription drugs.
However, that caution didn’t carry over into fatigued driving, which studies have shown can be at least as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. More than 96% said driving when they were so tired that they had a hard time keeping their eyes open was very or extremely dangerous. Yet more than 23% admitted to having done so in the past 30 days.
Avoiding Negligent Driving Behaviors
The overall message from the survey is simple and disturbing: Most drivers know just how dangerous behaviors like distracted and aggressive driving are, but a significant percentage disregard that risk and engage anyway. That means improving safety on Ohio roads would be easy to achieve if drivers got on board–all they’d have to do is apply the standards they’ve already admitted they and those close to them recognize.
When drivers fail or refuse to do so, they’re negligent. In Ohio and around the country, negligent drivers are generally legally responsible for the harm they cause. That means if you’ve been injured in a traffic crash because another driver was negligent, you may be entitled to compensation.
There’s no reason to struggle with sorting out the law and wrestling with insurance companies on your own. The experienced car accident lawyers at Plevin & Gallucci offer free consultations to help people who have been injured or have lost loved ones through someone else’s fault understand their rights and options. You can schedule yours right now by calling 855-4PLEVIN or by filling out the contact form on this page.