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AAA study says drivers still practice dangerous behaviors behind the wheel

As drivers, we know what’s expected when it comes to safe driving habits … apparently we just choose not to act on them.

A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that while drivers know what safe driving habits are and value them, they don’t follow them when behind the wheel. It’s basically a “Do as I say, not as I do” attitude when it comes to safety practices for most drivers.

Drinking, drugs & driving

Efforts to educate drivers about the dangers of drinking and driving have been successful as 66% of those surveyed view drinking and driving as a very serious threat to their personal safety. The majority of drivers (97%) consider it unacceptable to drive when someone has had too much to drink. Despite knowing that drinking and driving pose significant risks, one in eight drivers still reported driving in the past 12 months when their blood alcohol level might have been at or over the legal limit, and 19% said they did so in the past month.

The majority of drivers, 80%, said that anyone convicted of driving while intoxicated more than once should be required to have an alcohol interlock ignition device that will not allow them to start the car if they have been drinking. Requiring that alcohol interlock ignition devices be installed in all new cars was supported by 73% of the drivers and 63% favored lowering the blood alcohol level from .08 to .05 g/dl.

An emerging risk involves drivers who are using drugs before getting behind the wheel. Almost half of those surveyed believe it is a much larger problem than it was three years ago. While 56% view using illegal drugs as a serious threat, the use of prescription drugs was seen by 28% as an issue as well.

Over 90% of the drivers surveyed agreed that it was unacceptable for a driver to “drive one hour after using marijuana,” and 85% supported laws that would make it “illegal to drive with a certain amount of marijuana in one’s system.”

Texting & cell phones

Individuals who use their cell phones while driving continue to be an issue as 69% reported talking and driving within the past 30 days. One-third of the drivers said they “talk on their cell phone while driving fairly often or regularly,” but more than half say this is a dangerous safety threat and 66% say it is unacceptable behavior.



More drivers, 65%, consider it acceptable to use hands-free phones, while 33% view it as unacceptable. The numbers for hand-held phones are reversed with 66% finding it unacceptable to use a hand-held phone and 33% finding it somewhat or completely acceptable.

When it comes to texting, the majority (78%) of drivers believe that texting and emailing while driving are dangerous, but 36% admit to reading a text message or email while driving in the last 30 days, and 9% admit that they do it fairly regularly. Another 27% like to multi-task and admit to driving and typing a text or email at the same time over the past 30 days.

While 89% of drivers support laws against texting, typing and emailing while driving, only 68% strongly support such a law, and less than half support the federal government regulating “non-driving-related in-vehicle technologies” because they are a distraction.

Age definitely affects how drivers view distracted driving. Those over the age of 60 are the least likely to engage in these types of activities. The drivers most likely to talk on the phone, text and email are ages 25-39, but they are closely followed by those ages 19-24 and 40-59. Drivers 25-39 are also more likely to view these activities as acceptable, while younger drivers ages 16-18 believe that texting, emailing and using the internet while driving is acceptable.

Speeding, red lights & drowsy driving

Drive on any highway and if you’re not doing 10 mph or more over the speed limit, you might feel like you’re standing still. According to the study, 46% of the drivers said they have driven 15 mph or more over the speed limit in the past 30 days and 14% said they do it fairly regularly. Just over 30% view speeding on the highway as a serious threat to their safety and 76% consider it unacceptable to drive more than 15 mph over the speed limit.


Speeding on residential streets was viewed as a very serious threat by 44% of the drivers and 90% consider driving 10 mph over the speed limit as unacceptable. Over 95% consider driving 10 mph over the speed limit in a school zone unacceptable.

While 94% of drivers consider it unacceptable to drive through a red light that they could have stopped for, one-third admit to having done just that in the past 30 days. The good news is that less than 2% said they did it regularly.

Another dangerous habit that 96% of drivers consider unacceptable is driving when they are so tired that they have trouble keeping their eyes open. However, almost one-third (29%), reported that they had driven while struggling to stay awake in the past 30 days, 20% said they had done this more than once, and 2% said they did it on a regular basis.

As is the case with so many practices, drivers know the behaviors that could be a danger to themselves and others, and yet they still choose to participate in those activities, and this cultural indifference will continue to pose risks for all drivers and insurers.


Avoid these distracted driving habits and keep yourself safe and your insurance premiums low!