NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — A new AAA study shows that more American drivers are admitting to engaging in risky behaviors behind the wheel.
The study’s findings are based on self-reported behaviors from 2020-2021. It shows a significant increase in drivers speeding, driving impaired, texting, and running red lights.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, AAA says people developed dangerous habits behind the wheel because there weren’t as many drivers on the road. With more people on the road now, AAA said people still haven’t put the brakes on those bad habits.
“We haven’t gotten less aggressive, which is very, very troubling,” Fran Mayko, a AAA spokesperson, said.
Here’s a breakdown of the increases in risky driving behaviors in that period.
|Unsafe Driving Behavior||2021 (% of drivers)||2020 (% of drivers)||% change, 2020-21|
|Driving when thinking you were over the legal alcohol limit||7.3%||5.9%||+23.7%|
|Driving within an hour of consuming cannabis||5.0%||4.4%||+13.6%|
|Speeding 15 mph over the limit on a highway||50.7%||45.1%||+12.4%|
|Running a red light||28.2%||25.6%||+10.1%|
|Driving when you were so tired it was hard to keep your eyes open||18.8%||17.3%||+8.7%|
|Tailgating/changing lanes quickly||22.9%||21.3%||+7.5%|
|Reading a text||36.2%||33.9%||+6.8%|
|Talking on a handheld cell phone||37.4%||37.2%||+0.5%|
“This the killer. They admit if they were to ask their family or friends, you know, ‘how am I doing?’ And those family and friends disapproved, they’d still do that behavior,” Mayko said. “So we have become a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ society, which is very troubling.”
Mayko said it’s no surprise that the number of crashes in Connecticut has increased over a couple of years. In 2021 alone, UConn’s Connecticut Crash Data Repository reported there were 2,937 crashes caused by drivers under the influence of medications, drugs, or alcohol, 2,226 caused by drivers running red lights, 1,775 due to speeding on highways, and 1,554 caused by drivers talking/texting/using an electronic device.
What can be done about risky behavior behind the wheel? AAA says it will take education, enforcement, and engineering, which could mean changes on these roadways.
Mayko suggested new lines and signs could help, along with calming measures like lighted signs that tell people how fast they are going. A more uniform highway speed limit on different highways in different states may also help.
“There’s nothing that’s consistent in all 50 states, so that would be a start,” he said.
The number of traffic fatalities throughout the U.S. also rose since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates 42,915 people died in vehicle crashes in 2021, a 10.5% increase.