SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly 9 of 10 drivers in the U.S. are displaying poor driving habits, new research shows.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, approximately 87 percent of drivers engaged in at least one risky behavior while behind the wheel within the past month. These unsafe behaviors included distracted driving, impaired and drowsy driving, speeding, running red lights and not wearing a seat belt.

The disturbing findings come as almost 33,000 Americans died in car crashes in 2014, and with preliminary estimates for fatalities expected to increase 9 percent for 2015, explained AAA Utah spokeswoman Rolayne Fairclough.

“There is a culture of indifference for far too many drivers when it comes to road safety,” Fairclough said. “The vast majority of motorists believe they are more careful than others on the road, though most of them are not making safe decisions while behind the wheel.”

The report, which surveyed data from a nationwide sample of 2,442 licensed drivers ages 16 and older, found that 1 in 3 drivers has had a friend or relative seriously injured or killed in a crash, and 1 in 5 has been involved in a crash that required hospital treatment for a driver or occupant.

Among the common unsafe behaviors noted by drivers in the survey, 70 percent report talking on a cellphone while behind the wheel within the past 30 days. Also, 42 percent admitted to reading a text message or email while driving, and 32 percent admitted to typing or sending a text or email while driving.

Additionally, more than 80 percent of drivers view distracted driving as a bigger problem than it was three years ago, according to the report.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that distracted driving factored into at least 3,000 deaths each year.

Excessive speed is an unsafe habit for almost half of drivers on the road, the survey indicated, with 48 percent reporting going as much as 15 mph above the posted speed limit on a freeway in the past month. Additionally, about 45 percent of drivers reported going 10 mph over the speed limit on a residential street in the past 30 days.

Previous research by highway safety officials estimated that speed plays a role in almost 10,000 fatalities annually.

The AAA report indicated that 32 percent said they had driven when they were so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open in the past 30 days. The AAA Foundation estimated that drowsy driving is a factor in approximately 328,000 crashes per year.

The survey also showed that 39 percent admitted to having driven through a light that had just turned red when they could have stopped safely.

On a more positive note, only 18 percent of respondents reported driving without a seat belt within the past 30 days, and just 13 percent reported driving when their alcohol level might have been near or over the legal limit within the past year.


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