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AAA study: Motorists believe texting behind the wheel is as dangerous as driving intoxicated


Nearly 97 percent of motorists believe texting or emailing on a cellphone while driving is an extremely or very dangerous behavior, about the same number (95.1 percent) that perceive driving while intoxicated to be extremely or very dangerous.

That’s according to results of the newly released AAA Foundation’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, which identifies attitudes and behaviors related to traffic safety. The index is based on a sample of 2,582 U.S. licensed drivers ages 16 and over who have reported having driven at least once in the past 30 days, weighted to reflect the U.S. population.

While a wide majority of drivers see distracted driving behavior as risky, that did not stop over 41.3 percent from admitting they had read texts or emails on their phone at least once in the past 30 days, while 32.1 percent said they had typed on their device while driving.

“Don’t Drive Intoxicated – Don’t Drive Intexticated” is the theme of AAA’s multi-year traffic safety education campaign created to make distracted driving socially unacceptable. “Motorists are realizing that distracted driving is just as risky — and can have the same devastating consequences — as driving intoxicated,” said Lori Weaver Hawkins, the manager for public and government affairs at AAA Blue Grass. “AAA urges motorists to turn that realization into changes in behavior that improve the safety of everyone on the road.”

Social approval of driving behaviors


The survey also asked about social approval of risky driving behaviors, with just 6 percent of respondents saying texting or emailing on a cellphone while driving is socially acceptable. Talking on a hand-held cellphone was deemed more acceptable, at 20 percent approval.

Comparatively, driving while intoxicated was deemed the least socially acceptable behavior with only 1.8 percent believing it to be acceptable. Only 1.6 percent of respondents indicated they personally approve of drinking and driving.

Perceived risk of arrest


Respondents in this year’s Traffic Safety Culture Index were also asked whether they thought those exhibiting certain risky behaviors behind the wheel would be caught by police. For all items related to cellphone use while driving, less than half of respondents believed such behaviors were somewhat or very likely to be caught by the police.

A greater share (68 percent) of respondents believed intoxicated drivers are somewhat or very likely to be caught by police.

Other key findings


Additional outcomes of the latest AAA Foundation Traffic Safety Culture Index include:

•A wide majority of drivers perceive driving after drinking as very or extremely dangerous, though 11 percent admitted to having done so in the past 30 days.

• Most drivers (87.3 percent) indicated driving after using potentially impairing prescription drugs as very or extremely dangerous.

• About half of drivers (54.2 percent) indicated that speeding on a freeway is dangerous, while 64 percent of drivers perceived speeding on a residential street as dangerous.

• Despite high rates of perceived danger and social disapproval regarding drowsy driving, about 27 percent of drivers admit to having driven while being so tired that they had a hard time keeping their eyes open, at least once in the past 30 days.

Tips to avoid distracted driving


With motorists realizing distracted driving can be just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated, AAA encourages drivers to eliminate distracted driving by following these tips:

• Put it away. Place your mobile device out of sight to prevent temptation.

• Know where you’re going. If using a navigation system, program the destination before driving.

• Pull over. If you have to call or text while on the road, pull off the road safely and stop first.

• Ask passengers for help. If riding with someone, seek their help to navigate, make a call or send a message.

• Be a good passenger. Speak out if the driver of your vehicle is distracted.

• Don’t be a distraction.  Avoid calling or texting others when you know they are driving.

• Everyone should prevent being intexticated. Just as drivers need to pay attention, so do pedestrians and bicyclists. Never call, text or play games while walking or cycling.

The public is invited to take the Don’t Drive Intexticated pledge. Visit www.aaa.com/dontdrivedistracted to join this lifesaving effort.

From AAA Blue Grass


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