It is concerning and stressful to hear how many people have died in traffic accidents since the start of the pandemic. How many times have you watched the news and thought, “If only drivers would just slow down?”
Unfortunately, a recent study shows more drivers are actually admitting to speeding and other dangerous driving behaviors, while also acknowledging the hazards. So the difficult question is now: “How do you encourage safer driving when drivers are well aware of the risks?”
AAA’s Traffic Safety Culture Index was released in December 2022 and shares findings from a nationally representative survey of more than 2,600 drivers. The goal was to build insights into the attitudes and perceptions drivers take to the road and how these contribute to car accidents and injuries. What was especially significant: drivers gave their feedback online during the summer of 2021 – which federal agencies now project was the deadliest of 16 years on U.S. roads.
Researchers said drivers may have been influenced by their perception of danger and social disapproval, but less so by their fear of getting into trouble with the law, especially when it came to speeding.
As for social influences, researchers pointed to the power of family conversations as a tool to discourage unsafe driving. This is where you can come in and look for opportunities to help your family.
What Drivers Say: Distracted Driving
More than 90 percent saw dangers and felt social disapproval, yet 1 in 4 drivers still admitted to sending a text or email
Texting while driving is against the law for all drivers in 48 states, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). And in the study, more than 90 percent of drivers agreed: texting, emailing, or reading on a hand-held cell phone is very or extremely dangerous.
Despite this, many drivers still admitted to texting in the last 30 days:
- 26 percent of drivers admitted to sending a text or email while driving
- 36 percent said they read a text or email from behind the wheel
As for social influences, the study noted more than 90 percent of drivers felt their family and friends would disapprove of texting while driving. So this was a point for encouraging safety and reducing the potential for distracted driving accidents.
Drivers were less concerned about law enforcement. Just 43 percent of drivers believed they would be apprehended for texting and driving; only 35 percent believed they would get caught for reading a message while driving.
What Are Massachusetts’ Laws for Cell Phone Use and Texting While Driving?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 46 of the 48 states have passed primary enforcement laws, meaning an officer can stop a driver just on the suspicion of texting, without observing another offence. Massachusetts is one of these states. We have primary enforcement laws for:
- Hand-held devices (all ages, all devices)
- Text messaging (all ages)
- Cell phone use (drivers under 18 and school bus drivers)
The study did not touch on new video technologies. But after a cyclist’s death, a Massachusetts lawmaker has already proposed amending the hands-free law to ban drivers from vlogging and livestreaming.
Now, other states are considering the use of hands-free technology – but not everyone is on board.
Per AAA’s data, 79 percent of respondents support a hand-held ban for talking on their phone, but only 45 percent of drivers said they would support laws against using hands-free technologies for reading, texting, and emailing, even if devices are mounted.
What Drivers Say: Aggressive Driving and Speeding
Half of the drivers admitted to speeding on freeways, despite fears of being caught
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has frequently reported drivers who speed are contributing to the rise in fatal accidents. And over the past three years, Massachusetts state agencies and local communities have appealed and appealed to drivers to slow down.
In this study, more than 60 percent of drivers believed police would apprehend them for traveling 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway. About half of the drivers admitted to speeding in the last 30 days.
- 50 percent of drivers perceived driving 15 mph over the speed limit on freeways was very or extremely dangerous.
- 59 percent of drivers felt this way about driving 10 mph over the speed limit on residential streets.
- But 76 percent of drivers recognized that running a red light was very or extremely dangerous and 88 percent felt this way when drivers changed lanes quickly or tailgated behind other vehicles.
What Drivers Say: Impaired Driving
Drivers felt strong social disapproval for both drunk driving and riding with an intoxicated driver
Just seven percent of drivers admitted to drinking and driving in the 30 days before the survey. This was up six percent from 2020, but overall continued a downward trend since 2018.
Drivers were highly aware of the risks associated with drinking and driving:
- An overwhelming majority of drivers – 94 percent – believed drinking and driving to the point of being over the legal limit was very or extremely dangerous.
- Nearly every driver anticipated they would encounter social disapproval if they drank too much alcohol and drove (98 percent) or rode with someone else who had (99 percent).
- 72 percent of drivers supported a requirement for all new cars to be made with built-in technologies to detect a driver’s blood alcohol level and if necessary, stop the vehicle from starting to prevent drunk driving.
The Impact of Marijuana on Car Accidents and Road Safety
The majority of drivers – 65 percent – also believed it is very or extremely dangerous to drive within an hour of using marijuana. Just five percent of drivers admitted to doing this once in the last 30 days.
Massachusetts first passed a medical marijuana law in 2012 and an adult-use marijuana law in 2016, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. Both measures were ballot initiatives.
The first retail stores opened in Massachusetts two years later in 2018, according to the MPP, so the state is still less than five years into studying the association between cannabis retail stores and car accidents and injuries.
Massachusetts has already taken a few steps that could protect the public, first allowing home delivery of recreational marijuana in 2021. Last December, the Registry of Motor Vehicles released an educational video for teens on the risks of cannabis-impaired driving.
Seeking Help After a Car Accident in Massachusetts
If you suffered injuries in a car accident because the other driver was texting, speeding, impaired, or engaged in some other dangerous behavior, you can seek compensation for your losses. Working with one of our injury lawyers in Boston can help. We understand that the challenges you face now – growing medical bills, chronic pain, an inability to provide for your family – can get worse before they get better. You can trust us to fight on your behalf for the best possible resolution to your case.
Breakstone, White & Gluck has over 100 years combined experience helping clients after serious injuries in Boston. If you have been injured by negligence, we offer a free legal consultation and help you review the facts of your case and determine the next step. Call us or fill out our contact form to get started. We proudly serve clients throughout the state.