Study: Traffic Safety Attitudes Show ‘Culture of Indifference’

Americans are getting more concerned about unsafe driving habits but often engage in many of the same activities they find dangerous, according to a recent report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The report, called the Traffic Safety Culture Index, was based on a survey of nearly 3,900 drivers nationwide.

According to the survey, more than 67 percent of respondents said that distracted driving was a “much bigger problem today” than three years ago, far more than any other traffic safety concern, including traffic congestion and aggressive drivers.

And while virtually all respondents said they saw texting and/or e-mailing while driving as at least a “somewhat serious threat,” 1 out of every 4 drivers had reported doing so in the last month.

The disconnect between perception and practice shows a “culture of indifference” among American motorists who drive by a “do as I say, not as I do” philosophy, according to the survey, which identified similar disconnects in unsafe driving behaviors ranging from speeding to drunk driving.

The recent report’s findings about differences between what drivers believe about driving and what they actually do behind the wheel mirror findings in other distraction-related surveys.

Those surveys, which mostly focused on teen drivers, published findings including that:

–Most of the nation’s youngest drivers consider themselves “very safe” but still engage in some type of distracted driving.
–Nearly half of teen drivers reported texting although almost all said it was dangerous.
–Teens reported that their distracted driving habits are justified because they had seen their parents do the same.

Teenagers already have higher-than-average insurance rates because research shows they are more susceptible to bad habits behind the wheel like distracted driving.

So if you’re a parent trying to find affordable car insurance coverage for your teenager, such surveys suggest that you should first be a good model for your new driver to steer them away from the bad habits that lead to the kinds of incidents that raise insurance rates.

Survey Identifies Broad ‘Risk-prone’ Driving

The AAA also released specific distraction-related findings as a part of the its traffic safety culture study, reporting that use of a cell phone behind the wheel correlated with the likelihood they would engage in other dangerous roadway habits.

According to the AAA, of the drivers reporting that they frequently or fairly often used their cell phone while driving in the past month:
–65 percent also reported speeding, compared with 31 percent who did not use their cell phone in the past month
–44 percent also reported driving while drowsy, compared with 14 percent
–53 percent also reported sending a text or e-mail, compared with 3 percent
–29 percent also reported driving without a seatbelt, compared with 16 percent

The findings show that the problems plaguing traffic safety can’t be traced back to a “specific risky habit,” but instead to drivers who show “an overall pattern of behaving recklessly or hazardously behind the wheel,” according to the report.

“Distracted driving may simply be one manifestation of risk-prone driving more broadly,” according to the foundation.

Strong Public Support for Hands-Free

The distraction-related findings from the AAA also found that more than half of licensed motorists who own or regularly use a vehicle with speech-based technology say such systems don’t distract them from driving. In addition, almost 75 percent of those surveyed said hands-free devices are safer than hand-held devices.

There was stronger support for use of hands-free compared with hand-held devices, while more respondents said they would support laws restricting hand-held phone usage compared with those who said they would support laws restricting all cell phone use.

Those popular beliefs remain unproven by scientific research, said the foundation, adding that it will be releasing a “landmark study of cognitive distraction” this year.

“There is somewhat strong social disapproval toward using a hand-held cell phone while driving, but more than half of all drivers believe incorrectly that most others actually approve of it,” according to the AAA.

About John Pirro
John Pirro is a licensed fire and casualty insurance agent specializing in various aspects of the auto insurance industry. He worked in the auto body repair industry before taking a reporting position at Online Auto Insurance News.

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