2017 Traffic Safety Culture Index

The Traffic Safety Culture Index is an annual survey, identifying driver’s attitudes and behaviors related to traffic safety. Road safety topics covered include speeding, red light running, seat belt use, distracted, drowsy and drunk driving.

March 2018

Suggested Citation

For media inquiries, contact:

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

Authors

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

Abstract

The 2017 Traffic Safety Culture Index reveals that while most drivers desire a greater level of security behind the wheel, their actual behaviors often contradict their attitudes about safety- creating a “do as I say, not as I do” culture on the roads. The report offers insight on drivers’ attitudes and behaviors to help the traffic safety community better understand dangers existing on roadways and identify potential countermeasures to reduce the number of crashes, injuries and deaths.

Key Findings

General

  • More than 1 in 5 (21.4%) drivers report having been involved in a motor vehicle crash in which someone had to go to the hospital, including 11.1% who have been seriously injured in a crash themselves.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 (31.6%) drivers report having had a relative who was seriously injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash.
  • Most drivers (87.5%) perceive that distracted drivers are a bigger problem today than in past years. Moreover, distracted driving outpaced all other issues as a growing concern. It was followed by traffic congestion at 74.5%, aggressive drivers at 68.1%, drivers using drugs at 54.9% and drunk driving at 43.4%.

Distracted Driving

  • Cellphone use while driving is common. In the past month, 60.5% of drivers talked on a hands-free cellphone while 49.1% talked on a hand-held cellphone. Drivers are more accepting of hands-free cellphone use (69.0%) than hand-held cellphone use (24.6%) while driving.
  • More view drivers texting or emailing while driving as a serious threat (96.8%) than drivers talking on cellphones (87.7%). However, in the past 30 days, 44.9% of drivers read a text message or email while driving and 34.6% of drivers typed or sent a text message or email while driving.
  • A majority of respondents (87.6%) support legislation against reading, typing or sending a text message or email and 73.4% of drivers support having a law against using a hand-held cellphone while driving. However, only 40.9% support an outright ban on using any type of cellphone (including hands-free) while driving.

Risky and Aggressive Driving Behaviors

  • Speeding on freeways and on residential streets is prevalent. Half of drivers (50.3%) reported driving 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway and 47.6% reported driving 10 mph over the speed limit on a residential street.
  • There is greater social disapproval for speeding on a residential street than on freeways. Only 23.9% of drivers believe that driving 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway is completely or somewhat acceptable while only 14.0% of motorists deem driving 10 mph over the speed limit on a residential street as acceptable.
  • A large portion of drivers (42.7%) admitted to driving through a stoplight that has just turned red when they could have stopped safely in the past 30 days, despite most drivers (92.9%) viewing it as an unacceptable behavior. In conjunction with this, an overwhelming majority (91.4%) of drivers perceive running red lights as a serious or somewhat serious threat to their personal safety.

Drowsy Driving

  • 42.4% of drivers have at least one or more days when they get less than six hours of sleep in a typical week.
  • The majority of motorists view drowsy driving as a serious or somewhat serious threat to their safety (87.9%) and an unacceptable behavior (95.2%); yet around 3 in 10 (30.8%) admit to driving when they were so tired that they had a hard time keeping their eyes open at some point in the past month.

Impaired Driving

  • An overwhelming majority of drivers consider driving after drinking alcohol a serious threat to their personal safety (94.3%). However, 13.5% reported driving at least once in the past year when they thought their alcohol levels might have been close to or possibly over the legal limit.
  • A majority of drivers (90.8%) perceive people driving after using illegal drugs to be either a very serious threat or a somewhat serious threat to their personal safety.
  • Most respondents supported requiring alcohol-ignition interlocks for drivers convicted of DWI, even for first time offenders (79.9%); requiring built-in interlocks for all new vehicles (73.0%) and having a per se law for marijuana (82.9%).

Methodology

The survey results are part of the AAA Foundation’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, which identifies attitudes and behaviors related to traffic safety. The survey data are from a sample of 2,613 licensed drivers ages 16 and older who reported driving in the past 30 days. For detailed information on methodology, see full report.

Results

Overall, drivers perceive unsafe driving behaviors such as talking on cellphones, texting, emailing, speeding and red-light running as serious threats to their personal safety. There is generally concordance between drivers’ level of acceptance of certain behaviors with the level of threat each behavior poses to their personal safety. Although there seems to be concordance between perceived threats to personal safety and acceptability of certain behaviors, there seems to be discordance between acceptability and threats to personal safety with certain behaviors engaged in by drivers themselves. The survey findings reveal that drivers engage in behaviors they recognize as unsafe. For example, a substantial number of drivers (95.6%) say that it is unacceptable to type text messages or email while driving; yet approximately 1 in 3 (34.6%) indicated that they have done it in the past 30 days.

Suggested Citation

For media inquiries, contact:

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

Authors

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety