Driving is a complex task that requires attention, awareness, good judgment, coordination, and experience. Any substance that impairs a driver’s abilities in any of these areas creates unacceptable – and potentially deadly – risks.
Most people are familiar with the risks of using alcohol and driving. According to the 2011 Traffic Safety Culture Index, nearly all people (97%) say that drinking and driving is “unacceptable.” Three out of four drivers say they consider drinking and driving a threat to their personal safety.
Despite this near-universal rejection of drinking and driving, alcohol-impaired drivers are involved in about one-third of all fatal crashes, killing more than 11,000 people in the United States each year. More alarming, 14% of drivers say that in the past year, they have driven after drinking to a point they believe may be at or over the legal limit.
But, alcohol isn’t the only drug that can impair drivers. In fact, many people use prescription or over-the-counter medications that can impair their driving.
A recent AAA Foundation study of the impact of medications on senior drivers showed that 78% of people 55 or older take medications that could impair driving, but only 28% had any awareness that the drugs that help them could impair their driving.
Responding to this situation, the Foundation recently introduced an online tool where people can enter the names of the prescription and over-the-counter medications they use and assess the potential impact and interactions.
By using our research resources to understand driver impairment and disseminating information and tools to manage these risks more effectively, we work to eliminate death and injuries on our roadways.
Distracted driving consistently ranks as one of the traffic safety issues at forefront of many drivers’ thinking. Each year, more than 80% of drivers in the annual AAA Foundation Traffic Safety Culture Index cite distraction as a serious problem and a behavior that makes them feel less safe on the road. Nearly half of all people who say they feel less safe than they did five years ago say distracted driving by other drivers fuels their concerns.
Distracted driving is a deadly behavior. Federal estimates suggest that distraction contributes to 16% of all fatal crashes, leading to around 5,000 deaths every year.
The AAA Foundation believes that by improving our understanding of how mental and physical distractions impair drivers and by educating the public about avoiding distractions, we can eliminate these needless deaths.
Our work in this area also focuses on how distraction affects specific groups. Teens are among the drivers most impaired by distraction. A recent AAA Foundation in-car study showed that teen drivers were distracted almost a quarter of the time they were behind the wheel. Electronic devices, such as texting, emails, and downloading music, were among the biggest distractions, accounting for 7% of the distractions identified on the study video.
TAKE THE PLEDGE to drive distraction-free!
Eight out of 10 drivers surveyed in the AAA Foundation’s annual Traffic Safety culture Index rank aggressive driving as a “serious” or “extremely serious” risk that jeopardizes their safety.
They’re right. Aggressive driving accounts for more than half of all traffic fatalities.
Although “road rage” incidents provide some of the most shocking views of aggressive driving, many common behaviors, including racing, tailgating, failing to observe signs and regulations, and seeking confrontations with other drivers, all qualify as potentially aggressive behaviors. Speeding is one of the most prevalent aggressive behaviors. AAA Foundation studies show that speeding is a factor in one-third of all fatal crashes.
Despite a strong public awareness and understanding of aggressive driving, many people are willing to excuse aggressive behaviors. Half of all drivers in our Traffic Safety Culture Index admitted to exceeding both neighborhood and highway speed limits by more than 15% in the past 30 days. More remarkable, a quarter of drivers say they consider speeding acceptable.
Throughout outreach and education programs, we work to offer the public tools to assess their own behavior and recognize the signs of aggressive driving. As more people understand the many behaviors that can become aggressive and see their own behavior in a new light, they can begin to adopt safer driving practices and manage risk more effectively.
Drivers can barely keep their eyes open, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index. More than a third of drivers report having fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point in their lives, and more than one in ten has fallen asleep behind the wheel in the past year.
A Foundation study found the impact of having drowsy drivers on the road is considerable. Drowsy drivers are involved in an estimated 12.5% of fatal crashes, as most drivers drift out of their lanes or off the road. Drivers themselves are often crash victims who die in single-car crashes.
Drivers have a near-universal understanding that driving when you’re too tired to keep your eyes open is risky. Almost every driver surveyed in our Traffic Safety Culture Index surveys – 96% — reported that they find driving while extremely drowsy “unacceptable.”
As with so many risky driving behaviors, too many people are inclined to apply their knowledge of drowsy-driving risks to others, but not themselves. Through our educational materials and outreach efforts, we hope to offer drivers strategies for managing the risks of drowsy driving and changing their own behaviors.
Teens are among the riskiest drivers on the road, crashing four times more often than adult drivers do. In fact, car crashes are the leading cause of death among people age 16-20, killing more than 5,600 teens each year.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety seeks to turn around this deadly situation through our research and education in the area of Teen Driver Safety. By identifying and understanding the factors that contribute to teen driver risk and developing strategies for helping teens and their families manage risks better, we can save lives.
We pursue projects that offer groundbreaking insights into how teens think, interact, and perceive risk. Recent studies, such as our research on the impact of passengers on teen drivers and our study on how parents and teen interact during the supervised driving phase, and a study to measure changes in teenage driver crashes. Provide the basis for recommendations that help teens, their parents, their teachers, and policymakers make sound decisions.
Seniors represent the fastest-growing segment of drivers, with current projections suggesting that a quarter of all drivers will be over 65 by 2025. Although seniors have an overall crash rate comparable to that of 20- and 30-year-old drivers, they are the most fragile drivers on the road, with a higher death rate per mile driven than any other group.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety uses its research and education resources to learn more about the needs and challenges of senior drivers and to identify ways to help people remain active, mobile, and safe.
For example, we recent studies in the area of senior driving to provide information and alternatives for seniors. One recent study looked at an alternative for seniors who might not qualify for licensing under standard road tests. Other studies look at issues such as licensing policies across the nation and how in-car technologies affect senior safety.
The AAA Foundation also created a new interactive database, Roadwise Rx, that helps seniors and other drivers identify how side effects and interactions from both prescription and over-the-counter medications can impair driving. Through tools like this database, we hope to provide resources seniors can use to evaluate and manage their driving risks.
Every 13 minutes, someone dies on America’s roadways. Fatalities include drivers, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, and every other kind of road user. Car crashes hit young people especially hard, killing more people aged 5-34 than any other cause of death. More than 2.3 million people annually also suffer serious injuries from crashes.
Ten times more Americans die in car crashes each year than have died in combat in Iraq in the past decade. The economic impact of crash-related deaths and injuries is estimated at $70 billion a year, which is more than the total annual economic output of 15 U.S. states and territories.
These statistics are shocking. Every road user should be outraged that these tragedies continue to take place, especially when so many crashes occur because of risks that could be avoided, such as distraction, speeding, and impaired driving.
Through our Traffic Safety Culture program, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety works to safety a priority that everyone in our society values and pursues. Rather than viewing safety as a goal that can be compromised for convenience, all road users will consider safety an inherent part of driving.
Our annual Traffic Safety Culture Index tracks how the public’s views and perceptions of traffic safety issues change over time. Although various issues shift in and out of the public’s attention from year to year, one thing remains the same: Most people understand the risks of distraction, drowsiness, impaired driving, and other risky behaviors – and they condemn others for being risky – but they refuse to apply what they know to their own behavior.
Drivers Could be Stuck in an Emergency if They Only Have Junk in their Trunk
New survey reveals only one in 10 drivers keep essential emergency supplies in their vehicle
Bloomington, Ill., – January 16, 2013 Finding yourself stranded in your car due to treacherous conditions like snow, ice, poor visibility and slick roads only to discover you have junk in the trunk, rather than the necessary roadside emergency supplies, can place you and your family in jeopardy.
According to a new survey by State Farm® and KRC Research, more than 60 percent of drivers had some sort of “junk” (non-emergency supplies) in their trunk ranging from extra clothes and shoes to used food or drink containers. While 99 percent of drivers had at least one emergency supply in their vehicle, such as spare tire or jumper cables, a mere nine percent carried all the essential emergency roadside supplies, including:
- Jumper cables
- Spare tire
- Hazard triangle/road flares
- First aid kit
“Even on a relatively short trip, you can find yourself stranded for several hours. From icy waters splashing up on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago to fog covering the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, it’s important to be prepared,” said Robert Medved, safety expert, State Farm. “These new findings highlight the importance of having the right emergency equipment so people can safely get back on the road faster.”
Medved also recommends drivers check at least twice a year to ensure the equipment is in working order. This means spare tires are properly inflated, first-aid supplies are current, all other supplies are fully stocked, and the cell phone charger is compatible with either a power outlet or an USB port in your car. Communication capability can be the number one lifeline in some roadside emergency cases.
How Your Junk Stacks Up:
New survey findings also revealed that sedan drivers (63 percent) are less likely to carry emergency supplies compared to SUV and truck owners (75 percent and 73 percent respectively). Also, only two in five drivers said they check that the emergency supplies in their vehicle are working at least twice a year, in line with what State Farm recommends.
Advice for Drivers: State Farm encourages responsible driving every day of the year, and especially during cold weather months when inclement weather is more common. If you are stranded on the road, follow these tips:
- Pull off the highway (if possible), turn on your hazard lights and use a road flare or reflectors to signal attention.
- If you have a cell phone, call 911 and describe your location as precisely as possible. Follow any instructions from the dispatcher.
- Remain in your vehicle so help can find you.
- Run your vehicle’s engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm.
- Open a downwind window slightly for ventilation and clear snow from the exhaust pipe to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Don’t waste your vehicle’s battery power. Balance electrical energy needs – lights, heat and radio – with supply.
- At night, turn on an inside light when you run the engine so help can see you.
- Keep emergency supplies like road flares, a flashlight, blanket, windshield scraper, jumper cables, spare tire and a first aid kit in your vehicle or trunk at all times.
- Keep your fuel tank at least 1/2 full at all times during bad weather.
This survey was designed and conducted by KRC Research. Interviews were conducted by an omnibus telephone (landline and cell phone) survey between December 6 and December 9, 2012. The landline and cell phone combined sample is a dual frame sampling design. This means that the sample is drawn from two independent non-overlapping sample frames – one for landlines and one for cell phones. In all, 1,010 U.S. adults, age 18 and older, were interviewed. 659 interviews were from the landline sample and 351 interviews from the cell phone sample. Of those respondents interviewed, 895 qualified as drivers of a car; and the results of this survey are based on this sample. The data were weighted by age, sex, geographic region, race, and education to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the national population age 18 and over.
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