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“Do as I Say, Not as I Do”

Foundation research is consistently pointing to a duality in drivers in which they condemn behaviors of other drivers, yet they admit engaging in those same behaviors themselves. For instance, according to results from the 2008 AAA Foundation’s Traffic Safety Culture Index (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 2008), 78 percent of respondents rated aggressive drivers as a serious or extremely serious traffic safety problem. However, many of the same people reported driving in ways that could be classified as aggressive, which is the essence of the “Do as I say, not as I do” attitude we have seen previously. For example, despite rating aggressive driving as a serious or extremely serious traffic safety problem, nearly half of those surveyed reported exceeding the speed limit by 15 mph on major highways in the past 30 days, and 15 percent even admitted exceeding the speed limit by 15 mph on neighborhood streets. Drivers also admitted to performing numerous other potentially-aggressive acts, including speeding up to beat a yellow light (58%), honking at other drivers (41%), pressuring other drivers to speed up (26%), tailgating (22%), and deliberately running red lights (6%).

To that end, it is interesting to note two additional findings from our Traffic Safety Culture Index survey. First, 3 out of every 4 drivers said they are more careful than most other drivers. Second, almost 60 percent of drivers indicated that they were substantially in control of whether or not they would be involved in a crash.

What is the role of aggressive driving in fatal crashes?

Methods To investigate the prevalence of aggressive driving in fatal motor vehicle crashes, NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) database was analyzed. FARS is an annual census of all crashes involving motor vehicles in transport, which occur on public roadways, and result in the death of one or more persons within 30 days of the crash. FARS provides detailed information derived from police reports on all fatal crashes, specifically on all the vehicles and people that are involved.

The role of aggressive driving in crashes was assessed using the driver-related contributing factors coded in FARS. These are factors listed on police crash report forms as having contributed to the crash, and include a number of different factors related to the driver’s behavior and performance (e.g., failure to yield right of way), condition (e.g., drowsy), and circumstances (e.g., vision obscured by an object). Each driver record in FARS may include up to four driver-related contributing factors. Only factors related to behavior and performance, discussed subsequently, are relevant to the present study. Note that a contributing factor should not be interpreted as the cause of the crash. Because of the retrospective nature of the police investigations which produce the information that is coded into FARS, no claims are made about the causes of the crashes.


© 2009, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

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