Study: Motorists largely ignore hazards of cell phone/texting while driving

Oct. 3, 2011
While more and more motorists say they believe cell-phone use and texting while driving are dangerous activities, most say they continue to do both while behind the wheel anyways

While more and more motorists say they believe cell-phone use and texting while driving are dangerous activities, most say they continue to do both while behind the wheel anyways. That’s the finding by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index which, for the fourth consecutive year, determined that contradictory behaviors concerning cell-phone use and texting while driving continue to dominant the minds of American motorists.

“This research continues to illustrate a ‘Do as I Say, Not as I Do’ attitude that persists among drivers, and perpetuates the threat of cell-phone use while driving,” noted Peter Kissinger, the group’s president and CEO. “Changing our nation’s traffic safety culture requires drivers to take responsibility for their actions and alter their own behaviors on the road.”

According to AAA’s survey, 88% of drivers feel talking on a phone is a threat to safety, yet two-thirds admitted to having talked on a cell phone while driving in the past 30 days.

The poll also found peoples’ concern about texting or emailing while driving (95%) is on par with drinking while driving (93%), with 87% of drivers expressing support for having a law against reading, typing or sending a text message or email while driving and 50% of drivers support having a law against the use of any type of cell, hand-held or hands-free, for all drivers regardless of age.

Yet a majority of those very same drivers admit to engaging in the very same activities they believe pose a highway safety threat and that should be banned. According to AAA’s survey:

  • Of those drivers who admitted to having talked on a cell phone while driving (67.7% of all drivers), 55% admitted to answering calls more than half the time while stopped at a red light, while 31% said they make calls at red lights fairly often or regularly.
  • 44% admitted to answering calls while driving on a residential street with no traffic more than half the time, while 26% said they make calls on residential streets fairly often or regularly.
  • 28% admitted to answering calls while driving on a freeway with heavy traffic more than half the time; 15% admitted said they make calls on a freeway with heavy traffic fairly often or frequently.
  • Of those who admitted to reading or typing text messages or emails while driving (35% of all drivers), 54% admitted to reading text messages or emails while stopped at red lights fairly often or regularly and 35% said they type text messages or emails while stopped at red lights fairly often or regularly.
  • 27% admitted to reading text messages or emails while driving on a residential street with no traffic fairly often or regularly, while 15% said they type text messages or emails while driving on a residential street fairly often or regularly.
  • 16% admitted to reading text messages or emails while driving on a freeway with heavy traffic fairly often or regularly; and 9% said they type text messages or emails while driving on a freeway in heavy traffic fairly often or regularly.

Knowledge Networks conducted this survey for the AAA Foundation from June 6 to June 28 this year, using a nationally representative sample of 3,147 U.S. residents ages 16 and older via the firm’s web-enabled “KnowledgePanel,” a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The survey has a margin of error of approximately plus or minus 2.3% at a 95% confidence level, it said.

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