There’s some good news when it comes to Americans’ behavior behind the wheel. Over the past three years, fewer drivers have been running red lights, driving drowsy and driving under the influence of cannabis or alcohol, according to a new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
“It is encouraging to see more drivers recognize the danger of certain activities,” AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Executive Director Dr. David Yang said in a statement released Thursday. “However, the ultimate goal is to see the majority of drivers form safe driving habits and practice them.”
While the percentage of drivers using alcohol, consuming cannabis or driving when they were so tired it was hard to keep their eyes open declined by at least a third between 2018 and 2020, speeding, distracted driving and driving aggressively saw the least improvement, according to the AAA Foundation’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index.
The TSCI surveys drivers about the unsafe behaviors they’ve engaged in at least once over the past 30 days. Last year’s survey was conducted with more than 2,800 licensed drivers aged 16 or older.
An increasing proportion of drivers in AAA's most recent traffic safety study reported that even though someone important to them would disapprove of their using a cell phone to type, text, read or make a call while driving, many of them did so anyway. The AAA Foundation says that indicates that distracted driving behaviors are becoming more socially acceptable, despite the risks.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the U.S. in 2020 — a 7.2% increase compared with 2019, despite Americans driving 13.2% fewer miles because of the pandemic. The main behaviors that caused roadway fatalities were impaired driving, speeding and failure to wear a seatbelt, according to NHTSA. The agency estimates that during the first three months of 2021, 8,730 people have died in motor vehicle traffic crashes.