As driving begins to return to normal levels across the country after months of lockdown, motorists may fall
back into bad driving habits. Even though drivers know that their risky behavior is wrong, many do it anyway, particularly those involved in a recent crash.
Those are the highlights of new research released on Thursday by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a nonprofit research and education association.
“The frequency of drivers in the United States engaging in improper behavior is too high,” David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation, said in a statement. “While drivers acknowledge that certain activities behind the wheel – like texting, are dangerous, some do them anyway,” he added. “We need to be aware of the serious consequences of engaging in these types of dangerous driving behavior and change course.”
The AAA Foundation’s most recent Traffic Safety Culture Index found that drivers who have been in at least one crash during the past two years “are significantly more likely to engage in risky behaviors like speeding or texting, even when they think the police may catch them.”
The annual survey, which identifies and examines the gap between drivers’ attitudes and their reported behaviors, was based on data from 2,714 licensed drivers in the United States ages 16 or older who said they drove in the 30 days before the poll was administered in late 2019.
The results indicated that while drivers perceived distracted, aggressive and impaired driving as dangerous, many admitted to engaging in at least one of these behaviors in the month before the inquiry.
The numbers were higher for those involved in a recent crash. For example, 50% admitted to talking on a hand-held device while driving compared to 42% who were not involved in a crash. Those numbers were 43% and 27% respectively for admitting to texting while driving, and 39% and 30% respectively for admitting to running a red light.
The data showed that people did not alter their behavior even when it resulted in a crash, researchers noted, and while 96% of respondents cited driving while typing or sending a text message or an email as extremely or very dangerous,”these same drivers text when behind the wheel, even believing there is a risk of getting caught by police for reading (43.7%) or typing (42.7%) a text message.”
However, on a positive note, Jake Nelson, AAA’s director of traffic safety advocacy and research, said in a statement that the responses reflected a slight shift toward safer driving behaviors. When compared with findings from the 2018 survey, drivers reported that they engaged in some dangerous behaviors less frequently. For example, incidents of talking on a hand-held cell phone decreased significantly from 52.1% in 2018 to 43.2% in the current survey. Drowsy driving and texting both fell by 3 percentage points.
“If you point to the dangerous driving behaviors of others that you sometimes do yourself, then you are the problem,” Nelson added. “Stay focused on driving. This is a must.”