Study: 70% of you talk on the phone while driving (and that's not all)

March 2, 2016

For untold millennia, people have tried to set good examples for their family, friends, and neighbors. And for just as long, family, friends, and neighbors have been busting such people for doing the very things they've told others not to do.

It's one thing to take the "do as I say, not as I do" approach to morality and social mores. It's quite another to be hypocritical about driving habits, where you can put yourself, your passengers, and others at risk.

ALSO SEE: Most Americans are afraid of autonomous cars, even though many already drive them

And yet, hypocrisy among motorists runs rampant, as the AAA Foundation shows in its latest Traffic Safety Culture Index. To gather data for the Index, the Foundation polled 2,442 licensed drivers who were 16 and older and who said that they'd driven in the past 30 days. The Foundation asked respondents about their driving habits. Here are some of the big takeaways:

  • As we've seen many, many, many times before, mobile phones are a major distraction for drivers--even those who allegedly know better. The AAA Foundation says that 70 percent of those surveyed admitted that they'd talked on the phone while driving within the previous month. And 31 percent said that they do so with some degree of regularity. (Those stats may be driven by the fact that 63 percent of drivers think it's okay to use hands-free cell phones. However, a growing body of research suggests those folks are wrong.)
  • Texts and emails are huge problems, too, with 42 percent of respondents saying that they'd read messages while driving in the previous 30 days, and 32 percent saying that they'd sent a text or an email from behind the wheel. This, despite the fact that 88 percent of motorists agree with laws that outlaw texting and driving.

Old-school problems persist, too. In the past 30 days..

  • 48 percent of respondents said that they'd traveled 15 mph over the posted speed limit on a freeway, although 74 percent agreed that that's a no-no;
  • 45 percent said they'd traveled 10 mph over the limit in a residential area, even though 89 percent frown on the practice;
  • 39 percent said that they'd run a red light for which they really could've stopped, despite the fact that 94 percent said that running red lights was unacceptable;
  • 32 percent admitted that they'd engaged in drowsy driving (i.e. driving when they had trouble staying awake), even though 83 percent of drivers believe that it's a terrible habit;
  • 18 percent said that they'd driven without using their seatbelt.

CHECK OUT: For the first time, Google admits its autonomous car is at fault in fender-bender

Of course, the Foundation asked about drunk driving, too--a practice that drivers almost universally condemn. Within the previous year, 13 percent of respondents said they they'd gotten behind the wheel when they were possibly past the legal blood alcohol limit. Nine percent said that they'd done so more than once. 

And yet, of those surveyed, one-third said that one of their friends or relatives had been injured in an automobile accident. Roughly 20 percent said that they themselves had been involved in an accident severe enough to send someone involved to a hospital.

For further mind-boggling stats, check out the AAA Foundation's short and sweet Traffic Safety Culture Index fact sheet.

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