To The Editor:
A recent national survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety confirms that Americans desire a greater level of safety than they now experience on our roads and are open to more government action to make it happen. Yet, many are unwilling to change potentially deadly driving behaviors and candidly admit they are part of the problem. That is why AAA Mid-Atlantic and the Foundation are challenging motorists to examine their driving habits and make a resolution to drive safer in 2012 and beyond.
The Department of Transportation recently released updated fatality and injury data which indicate that 32,885 lives were lost in automobile crashes in 2010, fewer deaths on record than any time for the past 60 years. Even one death on our roads is unacceptable. Something is terribly amiss in our traffic safety culture when, in the safest year since 1949, on average there is still one needless death every 16 minutes in motor vehicle crashes. To reach zero deaths each driver must take a moment to assess his/her driving habits and ask, when it comes to safe driving, am I part of the problem or part of the solution?”
For the fourth consecutive year, the Foundation’s Traffic Safety Culture Index finds that most drivers (86 percent) view it as unacceptable to drive without wearing a seatbelt, yet nearly one in four admit that they have done so in the past 30 days. Additionally, a substantial number of drivers find it unacceptable to drive 10 mph over the speed limit on residential streets and admit to having done so in the past month. Such findings indicate that a false comfort exists among many drivers who believe ‘it’s the other guy behind the wheel’ yet admit to regularly engaging in potentially deadly behaviors like texting, driving while drunk or drowsy, excessive speeding, and red light running. This ‘do as I say, not as I do’ attitude that persists among drivers needs to change before we can experience a traffic safety culture where safe driving is the norm.
The following is a snapshot of the key findings from the Traffic Safety Culture Index.
Speeding and Red Light Running
- Speeding is prevalent on highways and residential roads. Most respondents (74 percent) consider it unacceptable for a person to drive more than 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway, yet more than half of drivers (52 percent) admit to having done so in the past month.
- Virtually all drivers (94 percent) consider it to be unacceptable for a person to drive 15 mph over the speed limit on a residential street, yet more than one in four drivers (26 percent) admit to having done so within the past 30 days.
- Nearly all drivers (94 percent) view it as unacceptable to drive through a traffic light that has already turned red if they could have stopped safely; however, more than one in three drivers (37 percent) admit doing this in the past month.
- Most drivers view drowsy driving as a serious threat to their safety and a completely unacceptable behavior. Virtually all drivers (96 percent) consider it unacceptable for someone to drive when they are so sleepy they can hardly keep their eyes open; however, nearly one third of drivers (32 percent) admit to having done so during the past month.
- Nearly one in four drivers (23 percent) admit that they have driven without wearing their seatbelt in the past 30 days, and nearly one in five (19 percent) say they have done this more than once.
We are moving in the right direction when it comes to safety on our roads but we need to do much more. Changing driver behaviors is not rocket science … it’s harder. Take the first step and make a personal goal to be a safe driver in 2012.