Alternate titles for this story could have been "American drivers growing stupider," "Number of boneheads on the road increases," "Natural selection having greater influence on American drivers." We don't mean to make light of the latest study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, but it's so darn disturbing that we aren't really sure what else to do.

AAA compiled the results of three years of surveys, and found that Americans aren't nearly as concerned about seriously bad behaviors while driving as they were a few years ago. It's no wonder there was an estimated 5.3-percent increase in annual traffic fatalities last year. The infuriating thing is that we've gone seven years without an increase in fatalities.

In 2009, 90 percent of the AAA survey respondents thought drunk driving was a "serious threat." 71 percent were opposed to drowsy driving. 87 percent considered working a smartphone while behind the wheel to be a bad thing, while 21 percent admitted to texting while driving. 77 percent took issue with people that ran red lights.

Fast-forward to 2012, and we're going to see a rather radical shift in feelings. Only 69 percent of people find drinking and driving to be an issue, while 46 percent are opposed to drowsy driving. 81 percent think a smartphone and driving don't mix, while 26 percent have texted while behind the wheel. Also baffling, 70 percent of people are against running red lights, with over a third admitting to flying through a red in the past month. For those that don't feel like looking at the paragraph above for comparison, fewer people are concerned with bad behind-the-wheel behaviors.

Take a look below for the full press release on the AAA study, and please, please be safe behind the wheel.
Show full PR text
Americans Growing Less Concerned about Dangerous Driving Behaviors

Survey Results Come as Road Deaths Increase for First Time in Seven Years

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Americans are less likely to perceive a serious threat from dangerous driving behaviors such as drunk, aggressive or drowsy driving, according to an analysis of four years of public surveys conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The decreased concern is accompanied by an estimated 5.3 percent increase in annual traffic fatalities, totaling more than 34,000 in 2012. This is the first annual increase in seven years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

"Motorists may be growing more complacent about potential safety risks behind the wheel," said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "A 'do as I say, not as I do' attitude remains common with many motorists consistently admitting to engaging in the same dangerous behaviors for which they would condemn other drivers."

Survey results during the previous four years show decreasing concern for dangerous driving behaviors:

The number of people who believe driving after drinking is a serious threat declined from a near universal 90 percent in 2009 to 69 percent in 2012.
The number of people who consider drowsy driving a very serious threat declined from 71 percent in 2009 to 46 percent in 2012.
The number of people who believe that texting or emailing while driving is a very serious threat declined from 87 percent in 2009 to 81 percent in 2012. The number of people who admit to texting while driving increased from 21 percent to 26 percent during the same period.
The number of people who consider red-light running to be completely unacceptable declined from 77 percent in 2009 to 70 percent in 2012. More than one-third (38 percent) admitted to running a red light within the previous month.

"We have made great strides in recent years to reduce road deaths, but there are still too many needless fatalities caused by dangerous driving," said Jake Nelson, AAA director of traffic safety advocacy and research. "It is clear that more must be done to address the dangers of drunk, aggressive and drowsy driving to stem this concerning trend."

Someone dies on America's roadways every 15 minutes. Fatalities include drivers, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists and every other kind of road user. Car crashes affect young people disproportionately by 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.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety analyzed four years (2009-2012) of survey data collected for the annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, which tracks how the public's views and perceptions of traffic safety issues change over time. More than 11,000 surveys were administered to Americans aged 16 and up from 2009-2012 to determine the results.

Established by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit, publicly-supported charitable educational and research organization. Dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on our roads, the Foundation's mission is to prevent crashes and save lives through research and education about traffic safety. The Foundation has funded over 200 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes, prevent them, and minimize injuries when they do occur. Visit www.aaafoundation.org for more information on this and other research.

As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 56 Comments
      inkly1
      • 1 Year Ago
      Keep lowing the BAC limits! It's getting harder to consider "drunk driving" a serious offense when everybody's driving "drunk".
      Jay
      • 1 Year Ago
      As other people have mentioned, it's becoming more of a joke because they keep lowering the standard for what the gov't considers "drunk". Going out to dinner and having one glass of wine and driving back home should not be considered drunk driving, but that is where we're headed. Also the stats are so manipulated. Look at how MADD compiles their stats. A drunk driving accident includes things like a sober person hitting a drunk pedestrian, a sober person hitting another car where the driver is under the influence, etc.. It's very deceiving and that's how they want it.
        JT
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jay
        In regards to the stats being manipulated....while of course MADD will do everything possible to skew their stats, what's alarming is that in this case they don't have to because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is already doing it! I just pulled this directly from the NHTSA's website: "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the U.S. defines a fatal crash as alcohol-related if either a driver or a non-motorist had a measurable or estimated BAC of 0.01 g/dl or above." I can't believe they'd be so crude in their definition, this is not right!
        OnTheRocks
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jay
        Yep, sober people often drive like idiots and run red lights too. If the driver of the car you just t-boned while running that light was drinking, it is now an alcohol related accident!
      teamplayers99
      • 1 Year Ago
      One, I read this as people perceive the threat to be decreasing, not that people are caring less about bad practices happening. Two, I might recommend Brandon Turkus to be more objective in writing in the future. There is far too much personal attitude written into this article.
      mylexicon
      • 1 Year Ago
      Pendulum is swinging the other direction. In the 60s, 70s, and 80s, the US had a crime problem. Strict rules were put in place. Despite plummeting crime rates for nearly 20 years, the regulations have become increasingly stringent and obnoxious. Now that people are looking for a bit of tranquility and relaxation in a world of weak economic performance, the populace is much less tolerant of the shenanigans endorsed by the moral crusaders. Imo, municipalities are abusing DUI and DWI to generate funds and convictions. People are not amused.
      Winnie Jenkems
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'm particularly interested in how exactly the question was phrased in these surveys. "Drinking and driving" is not necessarily a problem, nor is "driving after drinking." I'd wager that most people would say "drunk driving" is a problem. Legally speaking, drunk = >0.08 BAC. Despite what those ridiculous PSAs say, "buzzed" driving is NOT (necessarily) "drunk driving." Now, if certain legislators and special interest groups get their way with lowering the limit yet again to 0.05, there will be a whole lot more "drunk" drivers on the road, regardless of their actual level of impairment or the threat posed.
        Typesbad
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Winnie Jenkems
        I would add that the wording could also leave room for people to think that while drunk driving is as dangerous as ever, the danger is diminished because awareness of the problem and the incidence of designated driver's has increased. I don't know if actual drunk driving has decreased or not but if people think it has, it would probably effect their answer.
      MONTEGOD7SS
      • 1 Year Ago
      You can get people to agree with anything depending on how you ask it. Do you want more DUI checkpoints to stop drunk drivers? Do you want to strip away 4th Amendment rights and convict people of a victimless crime? They both ask the same thing, but say it in a way to where you get two completely different results.
        Ducman69
        • 1 Year Ago
        @MONTEGOD7SS
        "Do you want to release dangerous criminals from overcrowded prisons where we are down to standing room to make more room for people with blood alcohol levels as low as 0.08?" Phrase it that way.
      Sheldon
      • 1 Year Ago
      I can't wait to read the next installment of Brandon's ego-laden-opinions-disguised-as-news!
      davebo357
      • 1 Year Ago
      I think people are misinterpreting this poll. They aren't saying hey it's okay to drive drunk now, just that fewer people are seriously concerned with people "driving after drinking" today than they were a few years ago. Even the press release is sort of vague in it's wording, and I'd love to see video or a transcript of the actual poll people were given. Without that information it's impossible to know exactly how these questions were presented.
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
      Racerits
      • 1 Year Ago
      AB being opinionated about other opinions doesn't suit you.
      Ducman69
      • 1 Year Ago
      Its not that drunk driving isn't a problem, its that the definition of drunk driving has expanded to include people that can pass a field sobriety test with flying colors but are still considered drunk because of the crazy low levels we now consider "DUI" worthy. 0.08 is just not realistic, nor is it all a problem. And right now they are trying to get it lowered to 0.05, which is basically one shot. You could play a ping pong match with a Japanese meistro without issue still, but you'd be considered "drunk" when it comes to driving. *rolleyes*
      kal_elkal
      • 1 Year Ago
      That's just pathetic. Drunk driving is one of - if not the most - dangerous thing one can do when behind the wheel of a 2,000lb or more vehicle traveling at god knows what speed. What the hell is wrong with people?
    • Load More Comments