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Public wants safer drivers, but we still take risks

April 9, 2011
Adirondack Daily Enterprise

"Do as I say, not as I do!" If there ever was a phrase or saying that is applicable to today's driver, this is it. Drivers are concerned with dangerous habits of other drivers but haven't or won't give up the same dangerous driving things themselves.

Information from a recent issue of "Status Report" from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reveals some very interesting information. A survey conducted last spring by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found most people view highway safety as an important priority and look unfavorably on drinking and driving, drowsy driving, red light running, speeding in residential areas, and using cell phones behind the wheel. But many people admit to doing some of those things anyway. Check out the following results from that survey as reported by the IIHS.

Cellphones: Of respondents who reported driving in the past 30 days, 92 percent said it was unacceptable to text or email while driving. At the same time, 24 percent reported texting or emailing at least once in the prior month.

When it comes to talking on cellphones, nearly two-thirds of people surveyed by the AAA Foundation said their own safety is very seriously threatened by drivers on the phone. But more than two-thirds said they had talked on the phone at least once while driving in the previous month. Of those who reported doing so, most said they don't use a hands-free device.

Speeding: The public appears to recognize that excessive speed is dangerous. However, 2/3 of drivers in the survey said it's not acceptable to drive more than 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway, but 46 percent reported doing it in the past 30 days.

Red Light running: 93 percent of drivers said it's unacceptable to go through a red light if it's possible to stop safely, but 1/3 reported having done so. Almost a quarter of drivers reported doing so more than once in the past 30 days. Nearly 700 people were killed in crashes that involved red light running in 2009.

Drowsy driving: 96 percent of drivers said it's unacceptable for people to drive when they are "so tired that they have a hard time keeping their eyes open." However, more than a quarter of drivers said they've done it at least once during the past 30 days, and 18 percent said they've done it multiple times.

Seat belt use: 86 percent of drivers said it's unacceptable not to use a safety belt. But nearly 1 in 4 reported having driven without one in the past month. Nearly 1 in 10 reported doing this fairly often or regularly. About half of passenger vehicle drivers killed in 2009 were unbelted.

Alcohol: The survey revealed that virtually all drivers said it's unacceptable for people to drive if they believe they've had too much to drink, with 93 percent calling it completely unacceptable. Eighty three percent said they would lose some respect for a friend if they found out the friend had done so. About 11 percent of drivers said that on at least one occasion in the past year they had driven when they thought their blood alcohol concentration was close to or possibly over the legal limit. Of those, 15 percent said it happened within the past month. The percentage of fatally injured drivers with blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08 percent or higher has held steady at about 1/3 since the mid-1990s.

Judging from the results of the survey it seems we, as drivers, think we are better than the "other driver." That's why we can do these dangerous things but other drivers shouldn't. What's wrong with this picture? For more traffic safety information, go to:


Dave Werner can be reached at



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