Distracted driving has become one of the most pressing public health concerns of our time. I get it – your stupid smartphone is much more important than your life and the lives of all the other drivers on the road around you. Law enforcement, however, disagrees. States around the country are beginning to crack down on distracted driving with new laws and stiffer penalties. Still, the problem persists. Even worse, a new survey conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has revealed that even though drivers overwhelmingly feel that distracted driving is a serious danger, they do it anyway. Is it time to declare distracted driving a public health emergency?
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently conducted its annual Traffic Safety Culture Index Survey, a questionnaire which seeks to measure public attitudes and behaviors related to driving and the dangers associated with it. According to this year’s data, 88% of all drivers feel that distracted driving is now the most dangerous problem facing American drivers. That tops other dangerous driving behaviors like aggressive driving (68%), driving under the influence of drugs (55%), and drunk driving (43%).
Still, despite feeling that distracted driving is dangerous, the percentage of drivers who reported talking on their phones while driving has risen 43% in the last five years. That statistic is worst in New Jersey, where 94% of respondents report feeling unsafe due to other drivers being distracted yet 41% admit to being distracted by their phones while driving. Distracted driving has become the overall number one cause of auto fatalities in New Jersey.
AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Tracy Noble says that this hypocritical attitude ignores the true dangers of distracted driving, which has become a deadly yet far too common behavior:
What we continue to see is this do as I say not as I do attitude because drivers continuously think that they themselves can multi-task while behind the wheel of a vehicle. The facts are facts. When people take their eyes off the road hey are endangering not only themselves but all the motorists around them.
What is it going to take to get drivers to take distracted driving seriously?