America's Motorists Practice 'Do As I Say, Not As I Do'

American motorists blame other motorists for unsafe driving, despite the fact many admit to doing the same dangerous practices themselves, according to a new report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. For example, Americans rated drinking drivers as the most serious traffic safety issue, yet in the previous month alone, almost 10 percent of motorists admitted to driving when they thought their blood alcohol content was above the legal limit.

"Where's the outrage? Every 13 minutes, someone dies on America's roads -- yet the nation seems complacent about these preventable tragedies," said AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety CEO Peter Kissinger. "The '2008 Traffic Safety Culture Index' makes clear that while motorists are quick to blame the 'other guy' for deadly practices like drunk, aggressive or distracted driving, too often those pointing the finger are themselves, part of the problem. When almost 10 percent of motorists admit to recently driving after drinking too much alcohol, the problem is much worse than people think."

Traffic crashes are the leading killer of people from the ages of 2 to 34, with the overall death toll on U.S. roadways consistently exceeding 40,000 every single year since the early 1960's with the sole exception of 1992. With this in mind, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety launched its first-annual survey of the driving public on a wide variety of issues. According to the report:

  • Three out of four of motorists believed that they are more careful than others behind the wheel.
  • 82 percent of motorists rated distracted driving as a serious problem, yet over half of those same individuals admitted to talking on the cell phone while driving in the past month, and 14 percent even admitted to reading or sending text messages while driving.
  • More than seven out of ten motorists rated red light running as a serious problem, yet over half of those same individuals admitted to speeding up to get through yellow lights, and 5 percent even admitted to having run a red light on purpose in the past month.
  • Nearly three out of every four motorists rated speeding as a serious problem, yet 40 percent of those same individuals admitted to driving 15 mph or more over speed limit on the highway in the past month, and 14 percent even admitted to having driven 15 mph or more over the limit on a neighborhood street.

In addition to documenting the difference between what drivers say and what they actually do behind the wheel, the 2008 Traffic Safety Culture Index also revealed:

  • Nearly one of every four people interviewed reported having been injured in a crash at some point in their lives, and nearly one in three reported having had a close friend or relative permanently disabled or killed in a crash.
  • Americans have virtually no idea how many people die annually in crashes. Over one in four Americans guessed that 10,000 or fewer people died annually in crashes, 14 percent guessed that the number was over 100,000, and another one in four wouldn't even venture a guess. All told, only one in three Americans said somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 people die annually in motor vehicle crashes in the U.S.

"All of us should work to build a better traffic safety culture, where more than 40,000 deaths annually is notconsidered acceptable, where in conjunction with tougher laws, safer cars and better engineering, individuals take responsibility for their own driving instead of blaming the other guy," Kissinger said.

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