Tuesday, May 06, 2008

2008 Traffic Safety Culture Index

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has released a report (70-page PDF) that examines the results of a survey designed to identify the attitudes, opinions, behaviors, and experiences of the American public related to traffic safety. The report also explores information gathered during the survey in terms of future research, educational outreach, and a potential dialogue on the nation's traffic safety culture.

The key findings (beginning on page 18) are based on weighted data in its aggregate format.

• While traffic safety and public health professionals may be fully aware of the number of traffic related fatalities in the U.S. each year, the American public is almost totally unaware of these numbers. When asked for their best estimate of the number of motor vehicle traffic fatalities last year, fully one in four respondents said they didn’t know and made no attempt to estimate a number. According to official statistics, the actual total has been between 39,000 and 45,000 every single year since 1990.

• When compared to other current issues, concern about road safety ranked in the middle of the ten items tested. Of the issues raised, the issue that elicited the highest ratings of concern was the price of gas at the pumps, as compared to 41 percent indicating that they were extremely concerned about road safety.

• Respondents expressed a mid-range amount of confidence (the highest sited) in the government’s ability to improve improve road safety, reduce the threat of a terrorist attack, improve airline safety and fight crime.

• In an open-ended question seeking peoples’ top-of-mind ideas regarding what could be done to prevent serious crashes, the top four types of responses were: improving driver awareness or reducing distracted driving, reducing use of cell phones, reducing speeds or speeding, and reducing or stopping drinking and driving.

• When asked to rate the seriousness of a variety of traffic safety problems, drinking drivers were rated as the most serious problem, followed by drivers using cell phones, distracted drivers, aggressive drivers, speeding drivers, and drivers who run red lights.

• When asked to rate how acceptable a variety of driving behaviors were, respondents expressed that speeding up to get through a yellow light and speeding on the highway were the most acceptable of the items listed. The behaviors rated as least acceptable were not wearing a seat belt and running a red light on purpose. When asked to report their own recent driving behaviors, the behaviors that the greatest percentages of respondents admitted to were becoming extremely angry at something another driver did and talking on their cell phone while driving.

• Respondents were asked to rate their level of support or opposition for a variety of traffic safety measures, most of which received high levels of support and relatively little opposition. The most strongly supported measures were requiring all new teenage drivers to complete a state-approved driver’s education course and laws requiring all vehicle occupants to wear seat belts. The measures receiving the least support were using cameras to ticket speeding drivers automatically, and requiring all drivers to use equipment that would test them for alcohol before starting their cars. Interesting, nearly 1/3 of drivers have ever taken a formal driver training course.

The number one cause of death in American for people between 3-34 is car crashes; it is the third overall cause for all ages, behind heart disease and cancer. Yet, it is an area little think about and little money spent at addressing. Think about how much money is spent on homeland security, give the likelihood of an incident and the probability of losing one's life in a terrorist attack. It proves that people -- from state and federal regulators and the average Joe and Jane -- do a poor job at understanding and managing risk.

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