Americans are much less worried about drunken, drowsy and aggressive driving than they were four years ago even though traffic deaths have begun to edge back up, according to a national survey released by AAA.
The share of people who said they believe texting or emailing while driving is a very serious threat declined only slightly over the same period, from 87 percent in 2009 to 81 percent in 2012. More than 80 percent of those surveyed considered texting while driving a “completely unacceptable behavior,” but 1 in 4 people admitted doing so within the previous month.
Concern about risks of talking on a cellphone behind the wheel remained consistent with about 58 percent of those surveyed over the four years saying they consider it a “very serious threat.” On the other hand, 68 percent of those surveyed over the period said they had recently used a cellphone while driving.
The findings being released Thursday are based on 11,000 interviews with people of driving age from 2009 to 2012 conducted on behalf of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Some of the drivers may have been interviewed more than once over the four years, AAA said.
“Motorists may be growing more complacent about potential safety risks behind the wheel,” said Peter Kissinger, the foundation’s president and CEO. “A ‘do as I say, not as I do’ attitude remains common with many motorists consistently admitting to engaging in the same dangerous behaviors for which they would condemn other drivers.
There were more than 34,000 traffic deaths in 2012, a 5.3 percent increase. That was the first annual increase in seven years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. More than 2.3 million people annually also suffer serious injuries from crashes.