2019 Traffic Safety Culture Index

The Traffic Safety Culture Index (TSCI) is a nationally representative survey that has been conducted annually since 2008 to identify American drivers’ perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors related to traffic safety issues.

June 2020

Suggested Citation

Authors

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

Abstract

Introduction

The 2019 Traffic Safety Culture Index reveals that drivers in the United States value travelling safely and seek strengthening laws that ensure safer roads. They perceive distracted, drowsy, aggressive, and impaired driving as dangerous. This year’s survey, however, continues to highlight the discordance between drivers’ attitudes and their reported behaviors. For example, many drivers noted the serious dangers associated with talking on handheld cellphones while driving, however, they also admitted to having done so in the past month prior to the survey. Additionally, this report presents how drivers’ behaviors differ in relation to their self-reported crash involvement.

Key Findings

 

Distracted Driving Behaviors

  • A majority of drivers view typing (96.2%), reading (94.3%), and talking (79.7%) on a hand-held cellphone while driving to be very or extremely dangerous. In contrast, only 22.5% perceive the use of hands-free technology of their phone, such as Bluetooth or CarPlay, while driving to be very or extremely dangerous.
  • More respondents believe drivers’ risk being caught by the police for reading (43.7%) or typing (42.7%) a text/email on a hand-held cellphone than they do for talking on a hand-held cellphone (40.6%).
  • A majority of drivers support laws against distracted driving, with over 76% of drivers supporting a law against holding and talking on a cellphone and about 86% of drivers supporting a law against reading, typing, or sending a text or email while driving.
  • Nevertheless, 43.2% drivers report having driven while talking on a hand-held cellphone at least once in past 30 days. Fewer respondents enganging in distracted driving by reading (38.6%) and typing a text/email (29.3%) on a hand-held cellphone while driving.
  • Drivers involved in one or more crashes in the past two years are significantly more likely to engage in any type of self-reported distracted driving behaviors.

Aggressive Driving Behaviors

  • More than half of drivers (55.1%) indicate that speeding on a freeway is dangerous, while about 64% of drivers perceive speeding on a residential street as dangerous.
  • Over 65% of respondents think that the police would catch a driver for driving 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway, yet 48.2% report having done so in the past 30 days.
  • Over 86% of drivers report speeding through a red light to be very or extremely dangerous, and 52% of drivers think that the police would catch a driver for running a red light.
  • Drivers involved in one or more crashes in the past two years are significantly more likely to engage in any type of self-reported aggressive driving behaviors.

Drowsy Driving Behaviors

  • About 96% of drivers identify drowsy driving as very or extremely dangerous. However, only 29% think drowsy drivers risked being caught by the police.
  • Over 97% of drivers socially disapprove of drowsy driving.
  • Despite high rates of perceived danger and social disapproval regarding drowsy driving, about 24% of drivers admit to having driven while being so tired that they had had a hard time keeping their eyes open, at least once in past 30 days.

Impaired Driving Behaviors

  • Most drivers (94%) perceive driving after drinking as very or extremely dangerous. However, almost 10% admit to having done so in the past 30 days.
  • Nearly 70% of respondents consider driving shortly (within an hour) after using marijuana to be very or extremely dangerous. However, 91% of drivers socially disapprove of driving shortly after using marijuana.
  • Most drivers (88.3%) indicate driving after using potentially impairing prescription drugs as very or extremely dangerous. About 47% of drivers consider that drivers driving after using potentially impairing prescription drugs would be likely to be caught by the police.

 

Methodology

The survey results are drawn from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, which identifies attitudes and behaviors related to traffic safety. The survey data are from a sample of 2,714 licensed drivers aged 16 and older who reported driving in the past 30 days prior to the survey. For detailed information on the methodology, see the full report.

Results

This year, the AAA Foundation looked deeper into the issue of discordance by focusing on those respondents reporting the most “extreme” position about the dangers of driving behaviors (i.e., extremely dangerous), perceived likelihood of apprehension for engaging in them (i.e., very likely being caught), and perceived social disapproval of them (i.e., completely disapproved). The analysis revealed that even among these respondents, the discordance between beliefs/attitudes and self-reported behaviors was observed.

Further, new to the TSCI report is the inclusion of analyses looking at the association of engagement in risky driving behaviors with self-reported crash involvement. The analysis revealed that drivers who had been involved in one or more crashes in the past two years were significantly more likely to report engagement in any type of distracted or aggressive driving behavior. Although there appears to be an association between distracted and aggressive driving behaviors and crashes, the direction and magnitude of these relationships needs further investigation.

Suggested Citation

Authors

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety