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Distracted Driving: AAA Says Drivers Don't Practice What They Preach

Over the summer, AAA conducted its fourth annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, and while the study's findings are alarming, they shouldn't surprise anyone. That's because while many of us talk the talk about distracted driving, we're terrible at walking the walk.

AAA gathered data for the survey from June 6 - 28, 2011, polling a representative sample of 3,147 U.S. residents age 16 and older. Most of the survey's questions centered on mobile phone usage while driving -- particularly taking and making calls as well as sending and reading text messages.

The good news is that most American drivers understand that distracted driving is a major problem. In all, 88% of respondents admitted that talking on the phone while driving is a safety hazard, and a whopping 95% were worried about people texting or emailing behind the wheel. (That's even higher than the 93% of drivers who are concerned about drunk drivers.) Altogether, 87% of respondents favored laws that would criminalize reading or sending texts or emails while driving, and 50% said that they'd support laws to prohibit drivers from using their mobile phones at all.

The bad news is that many of the survey's participants don't follow their own advice. Nearly 68% said they had talked on their mobile phone while driving within the past 30 days -- though to minimize the potential damage, over half claimed that they did so only when stopped at an intersection, and respondents said they were more prone to answer calls than to make them.

Worse, 35% of drivers said that they'd read or typed text messages behind the wheel. As above, most said that they did so only when stopped at traffic lights, and respondents were more likely to read messages than type them.

Statistics like these are why AAA has launched its third "Heads-Up Driving Week" (going on now through October 8) and why the organization continues to push for laws banning texting while driving. As of today, 34 states plus the District of Columbia have distracted driving laws, and AAA is hoping to ratchet up that number even more within the coming year.

No matter how you feel about AAA's legislative efforts, we could all benefit from perusing AAA's ten tips for more focused driving. After all, who wouldn't enjoy a few less distractions -- especially behind the wheel?

This story originally appeared at The Car Connection.

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