2009 Traffic Safety Culture Index

This annual survey provides statistics on driving behaviors and attitudes about traffic safety among U.S. drivers.

July 2009

Suggested Citation

For media inquiries, contact:

Tamra Johnson
202-942-2079
TRJohnson@national.aaa.com

Authors

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

The Problem

  • 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.

Findings

  • 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.

Suggested Citation

For media inquiries, contact:

Tamra Johnson
202-942-2079
TRJohnson@national.aaa.com

Authors

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety