Speeding, Aggressive Driving, Distracted Driving Top List of Problems in First Statewide Traffic Safety Survey Results

Nov 18, 2010, 09:30 ET from Office of Traffic Safety

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Nov. 18, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- As families across California are planning for holiday travel, the Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) has completed California's first ever statewide survey to assess the opinions of motorists across the state on a multitude of important traffic safety issues.  The results varied from surprising to reassuring that current efforts are paying off.

"This survey provides OTS and traffic safety partners with a unique opportunity to hear directly from California motorists on traffic safety issues of concern and priority in this state," said OTS Director Christopher J. Murphy.  "We are particularly interested in gaining feedback on the issue of distracted driving and public perceptions associated with this very dangerous and widespread behavior."

Participants were asked questions about what they perceive to be the biggest safety problems on California roadways.  Speeding and aggressive driving, plus distracted driving via talking on phones were cited as the biggest safety problems on the road.

Cell phone talking and texting were the overwhelming picks for most distracting, with talking accounting for a surprising 60 percent of responses. More than a third of drivers are talking less on cell phones while driving, which is good considering that until a couple of years ago, few considered it dangerous.  Nearly 55 percent have been hit or nearly hit by a driver who was talking or texting on a cell phone.

In addition to distracted driving issues, the survey also included questions pertaining to seat belt use, impaired driving and sobriety checkpoints.  Sixty percent remember seeing signs and campaigns saying "Report Drunk Drivers – Call 911," more than half (56 percent) think it helps increase arrests, and more than half who had an opinion believe it results in fewer drunks on roadways.  Eighty-nine percent think that driving under the influence of drugs, legal and illegal, is a problem.

The survey was fielded in late July, and interviewed 1,671 drivers age 18 and over at 60 gas stations in 15 counties throughout California.  The results will help the State and those involved in the Strategic Highway Safety Plan better identify and track driver attitudes, self-reported driving behavior, awareness of high visibility enforcement efforts, and safety communications.

"The more information we have to work with, the better job we can all do of making sure our efforts are strategic and based on solid data," said Murphy.  "This will be particularly important as we forge ahead with distracted driving programs in the near future."

Additional results include:

  • About 25 percent of all respondents indicated that speeding and aggressive driving is the number one safety problem on California's roadways.  
  • The second most common response to the question of the biggest safety problem was distracted driving via talking on cell phones.  Drivers in Southern California were more likely than drivers in both Northern and Central California to cite texting as the biggest safety issue.  Additionally, respondents over age 35 were significantly more likely to state that being distracted by talking on a cell phone was a serious traffic safety issue.
  • Cell phone conversations (hand-held or hands-free) were cited as the most serious distraction for drivers.
  • More than 27 percent said that they still talked on a hand-held cell phone while driving in the past 30 days.
  • More than 42 percent of survey participants indicated that they talked on a hands-free cell phone while driving during the past 30 days, despite the evidence that it is no safer than hand-held.
  • Twenty percent continue to text or email while driving despite the known dangers and laws.
  • A total of 31.5 percent of respondents indicated they talk less on cell phones since the hands-free law went into effect.
  • Roughly 45 percent of participants indicated that they had made a mistake while talking on a cell phone while driving.
  • Nearly 55 percent reported having been hit or nearly hit by a driver who was talking or texting on a cell phone.
  • The vast majority of respondents supported sobriety checkpoints (86.5 percent).  
  • More than a third of respondents said that they were less likely to drive after drinking too much as a result of the "Report Drunk Drivers. Call 911" campaign.
  • Although nearly 70 percent of participants reported that driving under the influence of both legal and illegal drugs was a very big problem and should carry the same penalties as driving under the influence of alcohol, only about half (52 percent) believed the current penalty for drugged driving was as serious as the penalty for drunk driving.
  • The vast majority, 70 percent, believed that the penalty for driving under the influence of drugs should carry the same penalty as driving under the influence of alcohol.
  • Consistent with the record 96.2 percent reported in the annual 2010 statewide seat belt use observational survey, this driver survey showed 95.8 percent say they always wear a seat belt.

SOURCE Office of Traffic Safety