2014 Traffic Safety Culture Index

This report presents the results of our annual Traffic Safety Culture Index survey, providing data on the attitudes and behaviors of the American public with respect to key traffic safety topics.

January 2015

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For media inquiries, contact:

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

AAA Teen Driving AAA Senior Driving

Abstract

Since 2006, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has been sponsoring research to better understand traffic safety culture. The Foundation’s long-term term vision is to create a “social climate in which traffic safety is highly valued and rigorously pursued.” In 2008, the AAA Foundation conducted the first Traffic Safety Culture Index, a nationally representative survey, to begin to assess a few key indicators of the degree to which traffic safety is valued and is being pursued.

As in previous years, the survey also highlights some aspects of the current traffic safety culture that might be characterized most appropriately as a culture of indifference, in which drivers effectively demonstrate a “Do as I say, not as I do” attitude. For example, substantial numbers of drivers say that it is completely unacceptable to drive 15 mph over the speed limit on freeways, yet admit having done that in the past month. In past years, findings from the survey were reportable only at the national level. In addition, this year, sampling was expanded to allow for reporting at the state level for 24 states, which cover 80 percent of the U.S. population.

“Do As I Say, Not As I Do” Attitude Persists among American Motorists

For the seventh consecutive year, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has continued its efforts to measure and benchmark the attitudes and behaviors of American drivers in an attempt to understand – and strengthen – a culture of safety on our roads. As in previous years, the 2014 Traffic Safety Culture Index found that an attitude of “do as I say, not as I do” persists among motorists, many of whom admit to engaging in the same dangerous behaviors that they criticize as being “unacceptable.” Highlights are below.

Methods

  • Sample of 2,705 U.S. licensed drivers age 16 and older who reported having driven at least once in the past 30 days, weighted to reflect the U.S. population
  • Conducted between August 29 and October 6, 2014 using web-enabled probability-based panel representative of U.S. population
  • Participants were asked questions about threats on the highway, acceptability of behaviors, support for laws and countermeasures, and frequency of engaging in risky behavior
  • Survey conducted by GfK for the AAA Foundation

2014 Key Findings

Personal Experience with Crashes:

  • One in ten drivers have been seriously injured in a crash, and nearly one in five have been involved in a serious crash
  • Nearly one in three drivers have a friend or relative seriously injured or killed in a crash

Severity of Traffic Safety Concerns:

  • Three in five drivers (61.3%) say aggressive drivers are a somewhat or much bigger problem today compared with three years ago
  • Nearly nine in ten (85%) say this about distracted drivers
  • Roughly half (41.6% and 45.6%, respectively) say this about drunk driving and drivers using drugs
  • More than five in six drivers support their state adopting a vision to reduce the number of people killed in crashes to zero

“Do As I Say, Not As I Do”:

  • Red light running: 54.7 percent say it is a very serious threat, 72.7 percent say it is completely unacceptable, yet more than a third (35.6%) of drivers admit to doing so in the past 30 days
  • Speeding (10+ mph) on residential streets: 45.2 percent of drivers say it is a very serious threat, 64.6 percent say it is completely unacceptable, but nearly half (43.5%) have done it in the past month
  • Texting/emailing: 78.6 percent of drivers say it is a very serious threat to safety, and 84.4 percent say it is completely unacceptable; however, more than a third (36.1%) read a text or email while driving in the past 30 days, and more than a quarter (27.1%) typed one
  • Drowsy driving: 45 percent say it is a very serious threat, 81.3 percent say it is completely unacceptable, yet nearly three in ten (29.4%) have done it in the past month

Perceptions of Cognitive Distraction:

  • Two thirds (65.7%) of drivers say hand-held cell phone use by drivers is unacceptable, while two thirds (65.4%) also say hands-free phone use is acceptable
  • Nearly half (46.4%) of drivers who report using speech-based in-vehicle systems say they do not
    believe these systems are at all distracting
  • Support for texting bans for drivers is strong, with 89.3 percent support. Support for bans on handheld mobile devices is lower but solid at 67.8 percent, while support for a total ban (hand-held and hands-free) is even lower (40.2%)
  • Nearly three quarters (74.6%) say they believe hands-free devices are safer to use behind the wheel than hand-held ones
  • AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research has indicated that talking on either a hand-held or a hands-free device while driving is not risk free and both impose comparable levels of cognitive distraction

Variations by Age:

  • In general, compared with older drivers, younger drivers were:
  • More likely to report engaging in distracting behaviors behind the wheel;
  • More likely to find these behaviors acceptable; and
  • Less likely to support legislation aimed at curbing distractions

Support for Laws and Countermeasures:

  • Strong societal support exists for texting bans (89.3%), ignition interlock requirements for all offenders (80.2%), and universal helmet laws for motorcyclists (82.1%)
  • There is strong support for mandatory driver education for new drivers—89.6 percent for new drivers under 18, and 82.6 percent for all new drivers regardless of their age
  • A majority of drivers oppose speed cameras on freeways (63.1%) and residential streets (56.3%)

For More Information

For more information about the Foundation’s work pertaining to traffic safety culture and its specific elements (e.g., drowsy, distracted, and impaired driving), as well as products and other materials, visit www.AAAFoundation.org.

Suggested Citation

For media inquiries, contact:

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