2009 Traffic Safety Culture Index
This annual survey provides statistics on driving behaviors and attitudes about traffic safety among U.S. drivers.
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- More than 1 million people have died in motor vehicle crashes in the last 25 years in the United States, including 37,261 last year.
- Despite this being the fewest deaths caused by crashes in a single year since 1961, this still represents over 100 needless deaths every day.
- Society appears to have grown complacent—accepting these deaths and injuries.
- We need a stronger culture of traffic safety where individuals take responsibility for their own safety and the safety of others.
Purpose of the Index
- To investigate the public’s traffic-safety-related knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and experiences.
- To monitor America’s traffic safety culture.
- To guide traffic safety research and public outreach.
- To foster dialogue about traffic safety and how to improve it.
- 35% of drivers report that driving feels less safe today than it did five years ago.
- Distracted driving, mentioned by 31%, was the most often cited reason.
- Other major reasons that respondents mentioned for feeling less safe driving today than five years ago included aggressive driving and/or road rage (20%) and speeding (15%).
- When asked about their driving behavior in the past month:
- 67% of drivers reported talking on the cell phone while driving; including 28% who reported doing so fairly often or regularly.
- 44% reported speeding 15 mph over the speed limit on freeways.
- 29% reported driving through a light that had already turned red even though they could have stopped safely.
- 27% reported tailgating another driver when they could have backed off.
- 24% reported speeding 15 mph over the speed limit on residential streets.
- 21% of drivers reported text messaging while driving.
- When asked about perceived threats to their safety:
- 90% rated people driving after drinking alcohol as a very serious threat to their safety.
- 87% rated drivers text messaging or emailing as a very serious threat.
- 79% rated drivers not paying attention as a very serious threat.
- 70% rated aggressive driving as a very serious threat.
- 58% rated drivers talking on cell phones as a very serious threat.
- 56% rated speeding as a very serious threat.
- When asked how acceptable they considered it to be for a driver to engage in various behaviors while driving, large majorities rated the behaviors as unacceptable, even after having already admitted to doing those things themselves. For example:
- 95% of drivers said that text messaging while driving was completely or somewhat unacceptable; 18% of those same drivers admitted having read or sent a text message or email while driving in the past month.
- 94% rated running red lights as unacceptable; 26% of those same drivers admitted having run a red light when they could have stopped safely.
- 91% rated tailgating as unacceptable; 24% of those same drivers admitted having tailgated another driver when they could have backed off.
- 95% rated driving 15 mph over the speed limit on a residential street as unacceptable; 21% of those same drivers admitted having done this.
- 71% rated talking on a handheld cell phone while driving as unacceptable, yet 30% of those same drivers reported doing this, and another 27% reported using a hands-free phone, which studies have shown is no safer.
- 63% rated driving 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway as unacceptable; 28% of those same drivers reported having done this.
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