AAA Finds Speeding and Cell Phones Use Top Dangerous Driving Behaviors

As the number of road fatalities in our country continues to rise at an alarming rate, a new AAA survey reveals that there has in fact been a decline in unsafe driving behavior.

Drivers reported engaging in unsafe behaviors such as red light driving, impaired driving and drowsiness less frequently, according to AAA Road Safety Foundation’s annual survey.

This study was conducted in 2020, which asked motorists if they had engaged in these risky driving behaviors in the past 30 days, AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesperson Tracy Noble said.

So keep in mind what the situation was in 2020 when these questions were asked. New Jersey and the nation were in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. People drove less.

When asked if motorists use a red light, that number is down 18.5% from 2019, Noble said.

Driving while talking on a cell phone is down 28.6% from a year ago. Drowsiness at the wheel decreased by almost 36%

When asked if they had driven aggressively, that number fell 14.1%. However, there has been a much smaller drop in the number of speeding drivers. It was only a 7.8% drop.

“We know that when we look back to 2020, speed has been one of the biggest killers on our roads this year,” she said.

Presumably when there were fewer motorists on the roads and more people followed stay-at-home orders, there were fewer commuters and people engaged in less risky behaviors, Noble added.

The top five driver misbehaviors were speeding, driving with a cell phone, driving while reading a text or email on a cell phone, driving at a red light, and aggressive driving. Other bad behaviors included drowsiness while driving, driving while intoxicated, and driving within an hour of using marijuana.

Noble said another interesting question asked of motorists was whether people who were important to them would say their driving behavior was socially unacceptable. The survey found that 95.5% of those polled said their loved ones would find their texting and emailing behavior while driving to be totally unacceptable.

“So they know this is unacceptable to their loved ones and yet they would do it anyway,” Noble said.

Although this is a positive sign, drivers reported engaging in less risky behavior. But Noble pointed out that 2020 is a deadly year on our roads. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that more than 38,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020. This is a 7.2% increase and the highest number of fatalities since 2007.

That’s because when people saw more open roads, they tended to be speeding, Noble said. Accidents have been reported where motorists were traveling over 100 mph. There have been reports of people who for some reason have stopped wearing their seat belts. She added that if someone is not wearing a seat belt in a high speed crash, the likelihood of being ejected increases.

While some risky behaviors may have declined in 2020, many places weren’t open and people weren’t using their cars as much. Yet there was still an unusually high fatality rate on the roads, she said.

AAA recommends a few safety tips to keep in mind while driving. Always obey the speed limit. Not only is it safer, but it will help reduce gasoline consumption, especially in these days when gas prices remain very high due to increased demand and high crude oil prices.

Store the cell phone in the center console or glove box, or activate call / text blocking features like Apple’s Do Not Disturb.

Drive sober and always stay alert, especially at this time of year when it will get darker earlier. Paying attention to your surroundings is essential for staying safe.

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