Only about 40 percent of motorists in the United States can be classified as “safe drivers,” the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals in its annual study.
A majority of drivers acknowledged engaging in perilous behaviors while on the road, with speeding as the most prevalent habit, according to AAA’s Traffic Safety Culture Index, which was released on Nov. 30. The study identified six types of drivers, including five that were categorized as unsafe.
“As the United States continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic fatalities remain unacceptably high,” C.Y. David Yang, the foundation’s president and executive director, said in a report on the survey.
“Risky driving behaviors such as speeding and impaired driving play a critical role in road traffic crashes and contribute to an unsafe transportation environment for Americans traveling both inside and outside vehicles.
“There is an urgent need for research and public education efforts to understand and develop strategies to curtail these dangerous behaviors.”
An estimated 47,800 people died in traffic accidents in the United States in 2022, a 0.3 percent decline from the previous year, the National Highway Traffic Administration said.
However, over the past decade, traffic deaths have spiked by 30 percent, with 10,000 more reported deaths than in 2013, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).
“These roadway deaths are heartbreaking, unacceptable, and preventable,” the GHSA added in an April statement.
The AAA Foundation based its study on a national survey done in 2022. The survey involved 2,500 licensed U.S. motorists.
“This study highlights a near-term and important opportunity to concentrate on enforcement that makes an immediate safety impact,” Jake Nelson, AAA’s director of traffic safety advocacy, said in a statement.
“Many risky drivers in this study were classified into profiles that involved speeding behavior. Focusing on speeding drivers will deter other risky driving behaviors like impaired driving and red-light running.
“This traffic safety measure will have the greatest impact on safety.”
According to the study, “few drivers perceive speeding as dangerous, and speeding behaviors have the lowest perceived social disapproval of all the examined unsafe driving behaviors.”
“It is worth noting, however, that a motorist’s need for speed constantly fails to deliver shorter travel times,” the authors wrote. “It would take driving 100 miles at 80 mph instead of 75 mph to shave just five minutes off a trip.”
Safe drivers made up 41.2 percent of the survey sample.
Speeding drivers made up 22.7 percent, distracted and aggressive drivers 17.3 percent, distracted ones 15 percent, most dangerous drivers 2.4 percent, and impaired drivers 1.3 percent.
Although the most dangerous drivers were a small percentage of the sample, they posed a “serious risk to themselves and other road users as they reported engaging in all risky driving-related behaviors,” the study found.
AAA Foundation spokesperson Rebecca Steinbach told The Epoch Times that it takes only a single instance of risky driving behavior, “one momentary lapse in judgment, to cause a crash that can change the lives of others forever.”
“In that sense, all drivers in the risky driving groups identified in this study pose a danger to other motorists,” Ms. Steinbach said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 31 percent of motor vehicle fatalities in 2021 were related to alcohol-impaired driving, she said.
This statistic indicates that a small proportion of drivers in the “impaired drivers” category seriously threaten the safety of other motorists.
“Speeding was related to 29 percent of fatalities in 2021, which suggests that risky driving groups including speeding behaviors—both ’speeding drivers’ and ‘distracted and aggressive drivers’—threaten the lives of other road users,” Ms. Steinbach said.
She said that raising public awareness is one tool to improve road safety.
“Results from our survey suggest the majority of American drivers do not perceive speeding on freeways as dangerous.
“There is clear evidence that speeding is dangerous, and it does kill people. Many drivers commit these behaviors out of habit without consciously assessing the risks to themselves and others,” she said.
“Raising awareness and encouraging drivers to be self-aware is a first step towards changing driver behavior and making roads safer for all.”
But raising public awareness is one of many things people need to focus on, Ms. Steinbach said.
“We also need to improve road and vehicle design to minimize the chance of a crash when people make mistakes and, when crashes do occur, to reduce impact forces so that people are less likely to be injured or killed.”