Here’s yet more proof that we all think we’re great behind the wheel – the problem is everyone else.
The results of a major survey shows 95 per cent of drivers see texting or e-mailing by other drivers as “a serious threat to their own personal safety,” but that 35 per cent of them read or sent a text or e-mail themselves during the previous month while at the wheel!
This survey was conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which represents the 51 million members of the various AAA clubs. The foundation is a charitable research and education association, founded in 1947 to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and educating the public. Its fourth annual Traffic Safety Culture was conducted through the month of June, involving more than 3,000 Americans of driving age. The survey concentrated on the issue of distracted driving, principally on cellphone use.
“This research continues to illustrate a ‘Do as I Say, Not as I Do’ attitude that persists among drivers, and perpetuates the threat of cellphone use while driving,” AAA Foundation president and CEO Peter Kissinger said. Kissinger said changing this safety culture “requires drivers to take responsibility for their actions and alter their own behaviours on the road.”
Perhaps even more frightening is the finding that the concern about texting or e-mailing (95 per cent) is right up there with drinking and driving (93 per cent). Going beyond texting and e-mailing, the survey found that 88 per cent of drivers feel talking on a cellphone is dangerous – but two-thirds admitted to doing so themselves within the previous 30 days.
The irony runs even deeper. Fully 87 per cent of those surveyed said there should be laws against reading, typing or sending a text message of e-mail while driving. Fully half of them support laws against the use of any type of cellphone whether it is hand-held or hands-free – for drivers of all ages. The foundation has been campaigning for such laws for several years, but warns that they will only be effective if accompanied by “extensive public education and visible and consistent enforcement.”
This last point is especially relevant to my mind. I’ve driven in three states and four provinces in the past couple of weeks and, in each, repeatedly witnessed drivers on their cellphones – hand-held cell phones – in heavy traffic and high-speed highway driving. In every one of these jurisdictions, the use of cellphones while driving is against the law, yet these drivers either didn’t get that message or felt they would not be stopped or charged/fined.
Other findings of this survey included:
- Of the 67.7 per cent of drivers who admitted to talking on a cellphone while driving, 55 per cent said they answer and make calls while stopped at a traffic light fairly often or regularly.
- Forty-four per cent said they fairly often or frequently answer calls while driving on a residential street and 26 per cent said they make calls.
- And 28 per cent said they fairly often or frequently take calls while driving on a heavily trafficked freeway while 15 per cent admitted to making calls in these circumstances.
If not, how about the fact that among the 35 per cent of drivers who admit to reading or typing messages while driving, 54 per cent said they read messages and 35 per cent said they compose and send them fairly often or frequently while stopped at a red light.
When it comes to driving on residential streets, 27 per cent said they read messages and 15 per cent composed and sent them. As for busy freeways? Sixteen per cent read and 9 per cent typed and sent.
While all of this is frightening, buried within these results is the fact people think being distracted while stopped at a red light is OK.
What they do not realize is that this distraction means they are unaware of the traffic environment, that when the light changes and they belatedly switch their eyes and attention to the task at hand, unexpected events can unfold in the next few seconds, events that can and frequently do lead to a crash.
I’ll bet that when that occurs these drivers will blame it on someone else.
Halifax-based Richard Russell runs a driving school.