Distraction tops drivers' list of growing dangers on the road
Distracted driving tops drivers' list of growing dangers on the road, according to a new survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The annual Traffic Safety Culture Index shows that 88% of drivers believe distracted driving is on the rise, topping other risky behaviors like aggressive driving (68%), drivers using drugs (55%), and drunk driving (43%).
The proportion of drivers who report talking on a cell phone regularly or fairly often when behind the wheel jumped 46% since 2013. Nearly half (49%) of drivers report recently talking on a hand-held phone while driving, and nearly 35% have sent a text or email. Despite their behavior, nearly 58% of drivers say talking on a cellphone behind the wheel is a very serious threat to their personal safety, while 78% believe that texting is a significant danger. A recent study from the AAA Foundation shows drivers talking on a cellphone are up to four times as likely to crash, while those who text are up to eight times as likely to be involved in a crash.
"With more than 37,000 deaths on U.S. roads in 2016, we need to continue finding ways to limit driving distractions and improve traffic safety," said Dr. David Yang, Executive Director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Drivers in the AAA survey believe the problem of distracted driving has increased over the past three years, with nearly 50% reporting that they regularly see drivers emailing or texting while driving. Counterintuitively, federal estimates show the number of distracted driving crashes has actually dropped 2%. This may be due to the fact that it is difficult to detect distraction following a crash, which makes distracted driving one of the most underreported traffic safety issues. According to government estimates, distraction plays a factor in just 14% of all crashes. However, past AAA Foundation research looking into teen drivers (one of the most vulnerable driving populations) used in-vehicle dash-cam videos to determine that distraction was a factor in 58% of crashes, 44% more than federal estimates.
The survey results are part of the AAA Foundation's annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, which identifies attitudes and behaviors related to traffic safety. The survey data are from a sample of 2,613 licensed drivers ages 16 and older who reported driving in the past 30 days. The AAA Foundation issued its first Traffic Safety Culture Index in 2008; the latest report is online at www.AAAFoundation.org.
The results of the survey underscore the importance of the myriad development and testing programs that are underway for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous vehicle technologies, many of which are covered in this publication. ADAS systems that are used in an increasing number of vehicles and include features such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and automatic emergency braking are combined to achieve Level 2 automation. These systems can assist the driver in cases of distraction, although per the definition of Level 2, the driver must remain engaged with the driving task and monitor the environment at all times. With Level 3, conditional automation, the driver is a necessity but is not required to monitor the environment, although they must be able to take control of the vehicle at all times with notice. Level 3 automation is working its way into commercial vehicles beginning this year, while the first fully automated Level 4 cars are scheduled to launch in 2021. As autonomous technologies continue to advance and bring these higher levels of autonomy to the streets, distracted driving may eventually become a thing of the past, and, potentially, 58% of crashes could be avoided, according to the AAA Foundation research on teen drivers.