Traffic Safety Culture Index Indicates Drivers Knowingly Engage in Dangerous Acts
The 2012 Traffic Safety Culture Index
Car accidents occur each day in California and throughout the United States. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, almost one in three people in the country are friends with or related to someone who was seriously injured or killed in an auto accident. More than one out of every five drivers has been in a crash and one in eight has suffered serious injury, explains a California car accident lawyer.
Given these statistics, it would be reasonable to assume that most people would not engage in dangerous behavior behind the wheel. To assess how people view certain types of dangerous driving behaviors and whether people act on those views, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has sponsored research every year since 2006. Their most recent report, the “2012 Traffic Safety Culture Index,” indicated the following information about drivers:
- Drinking and driving is almost universally disapproved of by drivers and viewed as extremely dangerous. Of those surveyed, 80.5 percent of responding drivers supported a requirement that ignition interlock devices be installed in the vehicles of every driver convicted of drunk driving offenses, and 71.3 percent reported support for putting ignition interlock devices in every new vehicle manufactured. Yet, even with such widespread disapproval of drunk driving, 14 percent of drivers surveyed admitted they may have driven while over the limit at least one time in the prior year. A total of 2.1 percent of all drivers (15 percent of those who admitted to potentially driving drunk) said that they had possibly been intoxicated behind the wheel in the 30 days prior to completing the survey questions.
- A majority of drivers disapproved of texting and using cell phones while driving. A total of 66.5 percent of respondents supported restrictions on all hand-held cell phone use. Almost half, 48.6 percent, indicated support for a complete ban on cell phones while driving, including hands-free phones. Further, 66.1 percent suggested there is strong social disapproval towards the use of cell phones by drivers. However, more than two-thirds of drivers said they had talked on a cell phone while driving in the prior month, and almost one-third said they often used their cell phone while driving.
- Drivers almost universally viewed texting or emailing while driving as completely unacceptable and as a serious threat to safety. Yet, 18.9 percent suggested that they did not perceive any social disapproval towards drivers who were texting and 26.6 percent admitted to engaging in the behavior themselves in the past month.
- Just over one-fourth of respondents viewed exceeding the speed limit by 15 mph on a highway as acceptable behavior, and 49.3 percent had gone over this limit in the prior 30 days.
- A total of 72.5 percent of drivers disapproved of going 10 miles per hour over the speed limit in residential neighborhoods. However, 46.8 percent of drivers had exceeded the limit by 10 mph in the past 30 days.
- The majority of drivers expressed disapproval of running a red light in situations where stopping safely was possible. However, 38.4 percent of drivers had run a traffic signal in the month prior to completing the survey.
- Drowsy driving is also met with widespread disapproval by a majority of drivers, with most indicating that it is completely unacceptable to drive when fatigued. However, 45.9 percent admitted to falling asleep one or more times in their life when they were behind the wheel. Of the survey respondents, 2.6 percent said they had dozed off in the past month and seven percent reported falling asleep within the past six months.
- The majority of drivers believed failure to wear a seat belt is unacceptable and dangerous, with three-fourths saying they always wore their seat belt. Almost one-fourth of drivers, however, said they had been in a car without wearing a seat belt in the prior 30 days.
As these statistics demonstrate, drivers often engage in behaviors that they know are dangerous. It is important for states to have laws in place to discourage the riskiest of driving behaviors since people will knowingly drive unsafely. As such, California has many laws in place, including a primary enforcement seat-belt law; fines and penalties for running red lights and speeding; cell phone restrictions for teen drivers; and a complete ban on texting for all drivers.
Unfortunately, it is difficult or impossible to legislate against drowsy driving for operators of passenger vehicles, although there are laws in place limiting the hours that commercial drivers may work. Those who choose to engage in drowsy driving can be found liable for negligence if their actions are unreasonably careless, but there is no general traffic rule in California to prevent drowsy driving.
The laws that are in place, however, will hopefully help to discourage drivers in the state from engaging in dangerous behaviors that could result in auto accidents. Expecting drivers to self-police is clearly not sufficient as this study shows that many knowingly take on risks.
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