Texting, driving

The AAA has declared this week "Heads Up Driving Week," with a campaign that urges people to put down their phones Oct. 2-8, and then commit to distraction-free driving for good.

Almost all motorists believe texting while driving is dangerous, but more than a third of them do it anyway, according to a study released Monday.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s fourth-annual Traffic Safety Culture Index shows that 95 percent of drivers view texting or emailing by other drivers as dangerous, but 35 percent of those same drivers admit to having read or sent a text message while driving in the past month.

The disconnect persists despite increased awareness in recent years about the dangers of texting while driving, as well as laws banning the practice in many states, the AAA Foundation says.

"This research continues to illustrate a ‘do as I say, not as I do,’ attitude that persists among drivers, and perpetuates the threat of cell phone use while driving," said AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety President and CEO Peter Kissinger.  "Changing our nation's traffic safety culture requires drivers to take responsibility for their actions and alter their own behaviors on the road."

Other distracted driving findings from the study, conducted in June among a representative sample of 3,147 drivers ages 16 and up, include:

  • Of those who admitted to reading or typing text messages or emails while driving (35 percent of all drivers), more than half of them said they regularly read texts or emails while stopped at red lights. Sixteen percent admitted to reading text messages or emails  on a freeway in heavy traffic, and 9 percent admitted to typing out messages in the same situation.
  • More than 67 percent of all drivers admitted to having talked on a cell phone while driving. More than half of those said they usually answer calls while stopped at a red light, and 28 percent of them admitted to answering calls while driving on a freeway in heavy traffic.

Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia now have anti-texting laws, and according to the survey, 87 percent of drivers support those laws. But some of them still text and drive.

“They still do it even though they know laws are in effect,” said AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety senior communications manager Carol Ronis. “Most of these people agree that the laws are good and should be there.”

AAA is pushing for all 50 states to adopt the texting ban but says public education and enforcement are key in making them work.

A statewide ban on not just writing but also reading text messages went into effect in Maryland on Oct. 1. The legislative bodies in Pennsylvania and Ohio are considering texting bans in their current sessions. And in 2012, AAA plans to lobby for texting bans in all the remaining states, said Justin McNaull, AAA’s director of state relations.

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