Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Pay Attention to The Road!

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and, with the arrival of spring, motorists are getting back out on the roads, including many younger drivers heading out for spring break-related fun. But be aware: Teenage drivers have the highest crash rate of any group in the United States, and in 2013 963,000 drivers, ages 16 through 19, were involved in police-reported motor vehicle crashes, with over 380,000 injuries. How can we reduce these numbers?

Working with researchers from the University of Iowa, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety examined teen crashes in a program where drivers, ages 16 through 19, volunteered to be recorded behind the wheel via the DriveCam in-vehicle video camera system, retaining six seconds of video prior to the crash. We received over 6000 “naturalistic data” videos with 1,691 clips selected for research. These were primarily single-vehicle crashes due to loss of control, road departure events, and rear-end and angle collisions. Analyzing the data, the Foundation discovered that distracted driving played a role in 58% of all crashes overall, with the most frequent sources of distraction being:

-          Interacting with passengers, where passengers were present in 36% of all crashes and the majority were in the same age range, 16-19, as the driver.
-          Cell phone use, which accounted for 12% of crashes. Drivers using phones looked away from the road excessively; in the crash videos, an average of 4 seconds out of the final 6 seconds!
-          Decision errors, such as failing to yield the right of way, running stop signs, and driving too fast, are also large causes of crashes, involved in 66% of cases.

From the data, it is clear that driver education and training is needed to teach younger drivers to pay more attention when driving, and avoid becoming distracted or taking excessively long glances away from the road. Parents should set the appropriate example by not texting and driving as well as encourage their teens to do the same.  The AAA Foundation and AAA have also developed several resources for teen drivers, including Driver-ZED, SmartStart, and AAA’s TeenDriving portal.

Teen Driver safety is a large focus for us at the Foundation, particularly raising awareness of distracted driving. The research report cited above can be accessed, on our main website. The release of our new study has also garnered a bevy of media coverage.

To see an example of the DriveCam footage that the Foundation received, take a look at the video below.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Shedding Light on Older Driver Licensing

Older driver licensing is a perennially hot topic in traffic safety, with senior-involved crashes often generating significant media coverage and public calls to re-examine license renewal procedures. At the AAA Foundation, however, our objective is to promote twin goals: safety and mobility for Americans as they age. And, in reality, little is actually known about the effectiveness of various older driver licensing and renewal policies, which makes having an informed discussion in the wake of tragedy quite difficult.

In an effort to learn more about this issue, we've recently completed one of the first studies of the relationship between various older driver license renewal policies and fatal crash rates. By examining 26 years of data from 46 states, we've been able to make several observations that may surprise you.

The most significant finding pertains to state requirements for in-person license renewal (rather than by mail or online). For drivers ages 55 and older, in-person renewal policies are associated with a 9 percent reduction in fatal crash involvement rates. For drivers 85 and up, the decline is 25 percent.

Several policies, however, were not associated with a reduction in fatal crash rates. These included increasing renewal frequency, requiring drivers to pass an on-road or knowledge test, and mandating physician reporting of patients whose driving they have reason to be concerned about. 

One of the more complicated patterns that emerged pertained to vision testing requirements. Older drivers had lower fatal crash rates in states that mandated vision testing than in those that did not, but changes in policy status (i.e., when policies were enacted or repealed in a state) didn't change fatal crash rates. This suggests that other factors besides the vision test requirement itself are at play, and we clearly have much more to learn. 

Among the key questions the research raises is why mandatory in-person renewal is so effective. Is it because the screening process successfully identifies at-risk drivers? Or does the burden of having to appear in person preemptively dissuade or even frighten older drivers from going to the DMV in the first place? Of course, it is likely some combination of additional factors is at play. 

Regardless of the specifics, it's useful to remember (especially when talk of older driver licensing reaches a fevered pitch) that older drivers are not the nation's most crash-prone motorists, nor are they the most likely to cause injury or death to other road users. Both of those distinctions are unique to teenagers, an age group about which licensing policies and procedures have been much more thoroughly studied. 

As always, we'll continue to study issues related to teen and older drivers, and will keep you posted each step of the way at  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Deadliest Day?

This week, AAA predicts that 41 million Americans will venture 50+ miles from home for the Independence Day holiday weekend, with more than 80% of these travelers doing so by car -- the highest number since 2007. While in many respects this may be good news -- a boon for travel and tourism industries, and a sign of economic recovery -- a AAA Foundation analysis of 10 years of crash data found that July 4th ranks as the deadliest day of the year on the roads, with more than 40 percent of fatalities due to drunk driving.

There is a twist, however. Day of the week affects traffic crashes and fatalities much more than specific dates do, with any given Saturday or Sunday generally deadlier than a major holiday that falls on, say, a Wednesday. For example, in 2006, when July 4 fell on a Tuesday, it was the 94th deadliest day of the year -- behind every other weekend in June, July, and August. It's only when you look at years of data that account for dates falling on each day of the week that July 4 emerges as the deadliest over time. 

Given that Independence Day falls on a Friday this year and creates a long holiday weekend, we have great reason to be concerned. Friday, July 4, 2008 saw 80 alcohol-involved traffic fatalities, making it the 22nd deadliest day that year, and Saturday, July 4, 2009 had 90, making it the 2nd deadliest day, behind only the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.    

Sadly, our latest Traffic Safety Culture Index found that many drivers continue to hold a “Do as I say, not as I do” attitude about impaired driving. While 96% of American drivers believe it’s unacceptable for someone to drive when they believe they’ve had too much to drink, and 52% of Americans believe drunk driving is a bigger issue today than it was three years ago, 1 in 8 drivers admit to driving under the influence of alcohol, and 1 in 10 say they did so more than once in the past year. 

Troubling as this is, alcohol is not the only cause of impaired driving. Drugged driving is also a serious issue, though one about which there appears to be less public concern. 61% of surveyed drivers said that people driving after using illegal drugs were a very serious threat, and just 32% said this about prescription drugs. Marijuana, a major news item given recent pushes toward legalization in several jurisdictions, still seems to be considered a "gray area" by many drivers. Only 59% say they think marijuana increases crash risk, and more than 1 in 3 drivers who report using marijuana in the past year say they drove within an hour of doing so.

So, what are some things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones this weekend?Remember:

  • Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Period.
  • Never get into a vehicle with a driver you suspect has been drinking or using drugs.
  • Call 911 if you spot a motorist you believe may be under the influence. Actions such as drifting in and out of the lane, failing to maintain a consistent speed or disobeying traffic signs may all be indicators of an impaired driver.
  • Make transportation arrangements before heading out to events, and consider options like designated drivers, taxis, and public transit.
  • Take a look at the AAA Foundation’s Roadwise Rx tool ( to see what possible effects your prescriptions may have on driving (side effects as well as drug interactions).
  • Always buckle up!

Have a safe and Happy Fourth!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

100 Deadliest Days for Teens

We’re 3 weeks into May, which means another successful Global Youth Traffic Safety Month (GYTSM) is well underway. The event, organized by the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS), includes special events, scholarships, rallies, and more, and is dedicated to raising awareness of teen traffic safety issues and promoting youth leadership. 

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a proud partner of NOYS, a coalition of non-profit, government, and corporate groups working to empower youth and save lives. Over the years, we've participated in planning GYTSM events, released teen driver safety research in conjunction with the month, and even acted as "Walk Ambassadors" for the Long, Short Walk, an international initiative spearheaded by the Zenani Mandela Campaign and Make Roads Safe to promote road safety's inclusion in the UN Development Goals.

Even though GYTSM 2014 will end May 31, it's important to keep up the mission of the month all summer long. In fact, the coming Memorial Day weekend marks the start of the "100 Deadliest Days" for teen drivers, with an average of 261 teens losing their lives in traffic crashes during each of the summer months (a 26% increase compared with the rest of the year). This is among the many reasons teen driver safety is one of our priority research areas.

For example, a Foundation study of teens and passengers found that the risk of death for 16- and 17-year-old drivers increases by 44% when carrying one passenger under 21, doubles with two passengers, and quadruples with three or more versus driving alone. 
Furthermore, the prevalence of speeding, late-night driving, and alcohol use also tend to increase with teenage passengers in the car. Having an adult in the car, however, cuts fatality risk to 16- and 17-year-old drivers by 62%, underscoring the important role parents and guardians play in keeping their teen drivers safe. When parents drive with their teens in different road situations, such as at night, in heavy traffic, or in inclement weather, they are helping to prepare them for the many driving scenarios they will encounter throughout their motoring careers. And of course, parents play a key role in helping teens limit dangerous distractions in the vehicle, such as smartphones and other electronics!

For more information about Global Youth Traffic Safety Month, check out the NOYS website, or join the Twitter conversation with #GYTSM14. And of course, all of our teen safety materials can be found at  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Driving through the Golden Years...and Beyond!

Finding ways to help keep seniors safe and mobile is among the AAA Foundation's top research and education priorities. That's why we're initiating our largest-ever study of older drivers, in which we'll track several thousand seniors in various parts of the country over the course of many years. Along the way, this study will generate unique databases that will help us answer pressing questions about medical conditions, medication usage, travel habits, and mobility options for older Americans who can no longer drive.

For large scale, multiyear studies like this, it's always helpful to establish some baseline data and information about what is known at the outset. Therefore, we've just published an analysis of two existing national databases to get some insight into the medical conditions, medication usage, and travel patterns of today's older drivers. Our findings may surprise you.

First of all, older drivers are an active group. Over 75% of male drivers and 60% of female drivers over age 85 drive five or more days each week. Moreover, 84% of all Americans ages 65+ had a driver's license in 2010 (compared to barely half in the 1970s). In fact, every measure indicates increased automobility of older drivers: they take more trips, drive more miles, and spend more time driving now than they did 25 years ago.

Still, medical conditions and medication usage do appear to affect seniors' driving. Drivers 65-69 are twice as likely to report having a medical condition as drivers 24-64, and three-quarters of drivers 65+ who have a medical condition report reduced daily travel. Additionally, over 90% of senior drivers take prescription medications, and older drivers who do take medications avoid night driving at double the rate of drivers ages 24-64.

This report corroborates that seniors are among the nation's most responsible road users, and tend to self-regulate their driving. Still, many older Americans experience challenges that naturally accompany the aging process. To help, we offer Roadwise Rx, a free online tool that drivers can use to check the possible side effects and drug interactions of the medications they take which may affect safe driving ability. The results are personalized and confidential, and can serve as an excellent starting point for a conversation with your doctor.

As always, you can keep up to date on our ongoing senior safety study by visiting And, for detailed findings from this latest report, check out this fact sheet.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Keep Your Cool! Avoiding Aggressive Driving and Road Rage

Earlier this month, Cincinnati Bengals H-back Orson Charles was arrested over a traffic incident in Madison County, Kentucky. It began when Charles cut off another driver on a freeway. The motorist responded by making an obscene gesture at Charles, who then brandished a weapon at the motorist. 

This incident is a prime example of aggressive driving escalating into possible road rage, and it can happen all too easily if we don't take steps to prevent it. First, though, it's helpful to understand the distinction. 

Any unsafe driving behavior, performed deliberately and with ill intention or disregard for safety, can constitute aggressive driving. Examples might include speeding, tailgating, red-light running, cutting off other drivers, etc. In fact, a Foundation study of this issue found that aggressive driving plays a role in up to 56% of fatal crashes. In extreme cases, aggressive driving can lead to road rage, a deliberate, criminal act with the intention to cause physical harm to other drivers. Think back to the situation between Orson Charles and the other motorist: Reacting in anger can escalate the situation, leading to a dangerous moment of road rage.

Our national surveys find that aggressive drivers represent a major concern of American motorists: 89% of the drivers surveyed for our 2013 Traffic Safety Culture Index, for example, believe that people driving aggressively pose a somewhat or very serious threat to safety. The survey also found that over two-thirds of all Americans believe aggressive drivers are a somewhat or much bigger problem today compared with three years ago.

Though a serious safety concern, many drivers are guilty of actions which can be considered aggressive. The same 2013 survey found, for example, that while 84% of drivers report that they are somewhat or much more careful than other drivers, 42% admit to speeding up to 15 mph over the limit on freeways, 45% speed 10 mph over the limit in residential neighborhoods, and 1 in 3 admit to running red lights!

So what is the best way to limit aggressive driving and prevent road rage incidents? Remember these three rules:
  1. Don’t Offend: Avoid actions which could enrage other drivers, such as cutting them off, driving slowly in the passing lane, tailgating, or making gestures which could be viewed as obscene or threatening.
  2. Don’t Engage: As the saying goes, “It takes two to tango,” and it takes both drivers to escalate a situation into road rage. If you notice a hostile driver, steer clear by avoiding eye contact, increasing your distance, and going for help if needed.
  3. Adjust Your Attitude: Leave as much time as possible to get to your destination, and remind yourself that you're not in a race. Also, remember that other drivers' actions have nothing to do with you and shouldn't be construed as personal. Most importantly, if you think you have a problem with anger on the road, ask for help! 
For more information on aggressive driving and road rage, please take a look at our brochure, Road Rage: How to Avoid Aggressive Driving, and visit

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Working Together for Safer Roads

This month, we are very excited that the Roadway Safety Foundation -- a charitable group here in DC that is dedicated to promoting safe road design and educating the public about the importance of safety engineering -- has released a new edition of its popular Roadway Safety Guide

First published almost 15 years ago, the Guide is a community-oriented document intended for local leaders, active citizens, and any road users who may be concerned about the safety of the roads where they live and work, and who need assistance finding the right people and agencies to turn to for help. Written for non-engineers, it is both a readable introduction to key roadway safety concepts and crash countermeasures -- such as roundabouts and median barriers -- and a guide to working effectively with Departments of Transportation, police departments, highway authorities, etc. 

The AAA Foundation is proud to sponsor this valuable document, as it aligns closely with our mission of "saving lives through research and education." Roadway engineering and design is a topic that generally doesn't get the kind of public attention that driver behavior and vehicle safety issues do (such as distracted driving or high-profile auto recalls), but it plays a critical role in the overall traffic safety equation. Our research into crashes related to pavement edge drop-offs (when erosion, broken pavement, or other issue results in a 2-inch or greater difference between the roadway and its adjacent surface) shows, for example, that they are much more likely to cause fatalities or serious injuries than are other crash types on similar roadways.

With input from numerous stakeholders -- such as the Federal Highway Administration, 3M, AARP, and others -- and featuring case studies of exemplary community work across the country, the Guide also serves as an informative collection of expertise from a diverse group of government agencies, non-profits, corporations, advocates, schools, and others. To get started learning about how roadway safety is important to your community, check out the free online edition here. And, for more on our work in this area, such as our brochure on avoiding pavement edge drop-off crashes, visit