AAA Finds Better Behavior Behind the Wheel, But There’s Room for Improvement

AAA Finds Better Behavior Behind the Wheel, But There’s Room for Improvement

New data shows drivers still speeding and using the phone

WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 28, 2021) — A new report finds unsafe driving behaviors, including red-light running, drowsy driving, and driving impaired on cannabis or alcohol, have declined in the past three years. Some dangerous driving behaviors have fallen more than others, with drivers still admitting to speeding and using a handheld cell phone, posing a danger on the roadways, according to new survey data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. As more Americans return to the daily commute, AAA reminds all motorists to practice safe driving behaviors by focusing on the task of driving, keeping their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

“Based on self-reported driving behaviors from our annual survey of traffic safety culture, it is encouraging to see more drivers recognize the danger of certain activities behind the wheel,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “However, the ultimate goal is to see the majority of drivers form safe driving habits and practice them.”

The new data are from the AAA Foundation’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index (TSCI), highlighting the gap between drivers’ attitudes and reported behaviors. The following shows some of the improvements in unsafe driving behaviors from 2018 to 2020.

The proportion of people who reported having engaged in the following unsafe driving behaviors at least once in the past 30 days

Unsafe Driving Behavior 2018 2019 2020 Change from 2018 to 2020 (%)
Driven 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway 48.9 48.2 45.1 -7.8
Driven while holding and talking on a cell phone 52.1 43.2 37.2 -28.6*
Driven while reading a text or email on a cell phone 41.3 38.6 33.9 -17.9*
Driven through a light that had just turned red 31.4 31.1 25.6 -18.5*
Driven aggressively by switching lanes quickly or very close behind another car 24.8 26.5 21.3 -14.1
Driven when so tired it was hard to keep eyes open 27.0 23.6 17.3 -35.9*
Driven when you had enough alcohol that you thought you were over the legal limit 10.9 9.8 5.9 -45.9*
Driven within an hour of consuming cannabis 6.6 6.5 4.4 -33.3*

While fewer Americans took to the roads in 2020 due to the pandemic, those that did appeared to take greater risks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that an estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes—an increase of 7.2% and the largest number of fatalities since 2007. And, the numbers for 2021 look even worse, as NHTSA estimates 8,730 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the first three months of the year.

While the reasons for this increase are being studied, the AAA Foundation’s TSCI reveals some areas of admitted driving behavior that remain stubbornly high, despite declining since 2018: speeding and using a cell phone. Unfortunately, drivers who participated in the TSCI survey admit to risky driving behaviors despite knowing that loved ones, family or friends would strongly disapprove. Cell phone use is one such area where perception and behavior do not match.

The proportion of people who believe people who are important to them would somewhat or completely disapprove of the following distracted driving behaviors, which shows that these behaviors are becoming more socially unacceptable

Clip of the Week

Andrew Abel of the GoodGuys Car Show joins Bumper to Bumper Radio from their remote broadcast at WestWorld.