Salt Lake City—Drivers believe that distracted driving is a growing epidemic and one of the greatest dangers facing motorists today, according to a new survey conducted by the non-profit AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Nearly 9 out of 10 drivers surveyed by the AAA Foundation said that distracted driving (88 percent) is on the rise, ranking the action higher than other risky road behaviors such as aggressive driving (68 percent), drugged driving (55 percent) or drunk driving (43 percent).
Drivers taking the AAA survey said the problem of distracted driving has increased over the past three years, with nearly 50 percent reporting that they regularly see drivers emailing or texting while driving.
The number of drivers who self-reported using a cellphone behind the wheel has jumped 30 percent since 2013, according to Foundation research. Nearly half (49 percent) of drivers reported talking on a hand-held phone while driving, and nearly 35 percent have sent a text or email.
Despite their behavior, nearly 58 percent of drivers say talking on a cellphone behind the wheel is a very serious threat to their personal safety, while 78 percent believe that texting is a significant danger.
“We have to find new ways to remind people to keep their eyes on the road, not on their phones,” said Mike Blasky, spokesman for AAA Utah. “People know this is a dangerous behavior, but many of them do it anyway.”
While there were fewer instances of distracted driving reported in the latest federal statistics, distracted driving remains one of the most underreported traffic safety issues, according to AAA.
In a previous study, the AAA Foundation used in-vehicle dash-cam videos to determine that distraction was a factor in 58 percent of teen crashes, 44 percent more than federal estimates. AAA’s study showed that 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.
“There are after-the-fact tests to determine whether a driver is intoxicated on drugs or alcohol, but there’s no consistent method for tracking how distraction plays a role in crashes,” said Blasky. “When AAA put cameras in cars, we saw how prevalent distracted driving really is.”