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AAA's Sobering Analysis: The Safety Dance

Scott Vogel

If you haven't the time to read the new, much talked-about study on traffic safety, I have two words for you: cognitive dissonance.

The report, the "2008 Traffic Safety Culture Index," [PDF] which was released today by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, has been nicknamed "Do as I say, not as I do," and as soon as you open the 70-page document, it becomes clear why. Everyone knows drunk driving is wrong, right? I know it, you know it, and most Americans, according to the survey, rate it as "the most serious traffic safety issue," which it most assuredly is. At the same time, however, 9% of survey respondents say they actually have driven while drunk.

And those are the ones who admitted it.

But the absurdity doesn't stop there. Back to the survey: 82% of motorists say that driving while distracted is a big problem, but 54% say they talk on cell phones while driving.

Is running a red light a serious problem? 71% say yes. Then again, 57% said they'd sped up to get through yellow lights in the last 30 days.

Is speeding a serious problem? Three out of four motorists say yes. But ... 40% admitted to recently driving 15 mph over the speed limit or more.

Among the conclusions we can draw from the AAA survey is that drivers who don't practice what they preach are a serious impediment to safer roads. And this finding points to a general ignorance about the hazards of improper driving. Which brings me to a question. How many Americans were killed in car accidents last year? 1,000? 10,000? 100,000?

The answer is somewhere around 40,000. Who knows how many of those deaths can be traced to the cognitive dissonance above?

The AAA report concludes that not enough is being done to get the word out about traffic safety. What do you think should be done?


By Scott Vogel |  April 29, 2008; 11:57 AM ET  | Category:  Online Resources , Scott Vogel , Travel Trends
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Take away more people's licenses for dangerous driving beyond DUIs, including running red lights, distracted driving, excessive speeding. Going a month or more without being able to drive a car will make offenders obey the law.

Posted by: M Street | April 29, 2008 12:10 PM

Couple things I can think of:

1. INCREASE the posted speed limit to what people ACTUALLY drive at. 55mph all around the Beltway is unsensible, we all know darn well 70mph is the 'real' safe cruising speed around the Beltway, taking traffic flow into consideration of course.

2. Make getting (and keeping!) a driver's license harder/more expensive. This is what Germany does and they have arguably the most well-trained drivers in the world. Driving is a PRIVILEGE, not a right! I think people will be less ignorant about driving unsafely if the initial investment was a lot more costly.

Posted by: Tysons Corner | April 29, 2008 12:45 PM

Get off the #&*@ing cell phone and pay attention to your driving, you dumb @$$holes!!!

Posted by: Sasquatch | April 29, 2008 1:18 PM

Enforce lane discipline. It's a pleasure driving in other countries where people leave the passing lane free for passing. In the USA, people immediately rush for the left lane and are seemingly afraid to drive in the right lane. As a resident of Virginia I hate to acknowledge that it seems like a disproportionate number of left-lane hogs have Virginia license plates, too.

Ban cell phone usage for all drivers, or at least enforce hands-free laws. The hands-free device is NO cure-all because use of the phone is still distracting, but it's better than using a hand-held phone. (How I would LOVE to see automatic transmissions banned....make it really hard for people to use hand-held phones....but I know that will never happen.)

Synchronize traffic lights so that people are less frustrated with a seemingly endless string of red lights to the point where they feel the need to floor it to try to get through.

Get rid of four-way stops and install roundabouts. There's no reason to require people to stop if there's no other vehicle present.

Posted by: Rich | April 29, 2008 2:21 PM

I haven't read the report, yet. But I agree with the cell phone use penelties, and with an increase in the difficulty and expense of obtaining a driver's license.

Also so many people NEVER use their turn signals for lane changes, or actual turns.

I have always wanted to have a vaporizing gun to eliminate idiot drivers.

Posted by: rja112 | April 29, 2008 11:36 PM

Enforcement!!! People will always try to get away with what they think they can get away with. If there is more police presence at problem intersections, less people would attempt to run red lights, etc.

Posted by: DB | April 30, 2008 12:00 PM

If Driver Ed were more than a 5-hour lecture (taught to standards that make No Child Left Behind targets look like a G&T program) and a "road test" on a closed course, maybe people wouldn't drive like lobotomized cattle. And really, if you fail the written exam, that should be noted on any driver's license you subsequently receive, 'cause it's a strong indicator you're not smart enough to remember what the pretty colored lights are for.

My point is that we make it waaaaaay too easy to get a license in this country, and at some level that has to contribute to our auto safety statistics.

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