AAA report shows dangerous driving behaviors are on the rise

Dangerous driving behaviors are on the rise, according to a new AAA report. The increase comes after three years of steady declines.

The rise in risky driving behaviors from 2020 to 2021 included speeding, red-light running, drowsy driving and driving impaired due to cannabis or alcohol, according to the report.

The most striking increase was among drivers admitting to getting behind the wheel after drinking when they felt they were over the legal limit. This had an increase of nearly 24%, according to the report.

The next-sharpest spike was in the number of people driving within one hour of consuming cannabis -- up more than 13% in one year.

“The reversal in the frequency of U.S. drivers engaging in risky driving behavior is disturbing,” said Mark Jenkins, Public Relations Manager for AAA The Auto Club Group. “While drivers acknowledge that certain activities like speeding and driving impaired are not safe, many engage in these activities anyway. This reckless attitude can be life-altering.”

AAA shows dangerous driving behaviors on the rise. (AAA)

A survey from AAA also found approximately 94% of drivers believed driving after drinking enough alcohol to be over the legal limit was very or extremely dangerous, and only about 7% had engaged in that activity within the last 30 days in 2021.

There was also a 12% increase in the number of people driving 15 miles per hour over the speed limit, and a 10% increase in those who drove through a red light.

Other risky behaviors mentioned in the study included driving tired and reading text messages or emails on your phone.

From 2020 to 2022, 8.7% of people drove when it was hard to keep their eyes open because they were so tired.

People reading text messages or emails on their phones was up almost 7% in 2021 from 2020.

On the contrary, the report shows more than 90% of people believe texting, reading and emailing on your phone while driving is dangerous, but in 2021 the report from AAA shows more than 36% of drivers participated in those activities.

The table shows the proportion of people who reported having engaged in the following unsafe driving behaviors at least once in the past 30 days before the survey:

Unsafe Driving Behaviors2018
Change from 2020 to 2021
Driven 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway48.948.245.150.7+12.4
Driven while holding and talking on a cellphone52.
Driven while reading texts or emails on a cellphone41.338.633.936.2+6.8
Driven through a red light31.431.125.628.2+10.1
Driven aggressively by switching lanes quickly or very close behind another car24.826.521.322.9+7.5
Driven when so tired it was hard to keep eyes open27.023.617.318.8+8.7
Driven when you’ve had enough alcohol that you thought you were over the legal limit10.
Driven within an hour of consuming cannabis6.

All of these are factors in deadly crashes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates there were nearly 39,000 traffic deaths in 2020, and nearly 43,000 last year. That’s a 10.5% increase.

News4JAX records show that in Duval County, there were 194 traffic deaths last year. As of Friday, there were 158 in 2022.

“Traffic patterns have largely normalized since the start of the pandemic, yet traffic fatalities are at their highest level in nearly two decades,” Jenkins said. “We can reverse this trend if drivers slow down, avoid distractions and never drive impaired.”

U.S. Annual Traffic Fatalities from 2006-2021 (AAA)

As dangerous driving behavior becomes more common on the road, AAA recommends that drivers stay prepared. Two ways to do that are to make sure you have car insurance and be mindful of the way you drive.

AAA also warns to be prepared in the event of a crash. Keep an emergency kit with first aid and roadside visibility items, like a flashlight and flares, in your car. You should also keep a copy of your proof of insurance in your glove box and add your insurance company’s phone number and your policy number to your phone.

You should also know what to do if a crash happens. According to AAA, you should call 911 and remain at the scene. If no one is injured and your vehicle is drivable, turn on the hazard lights and safely move it to an emergency lane or parking area. If the vehicle can’t be moved, turn on the hazard lights and go to a spot safely away from moving traffic until emergency services arrive.

You should also exchange information with all parties involved and take photos of the location, people involved and damaged vehicles, and notify your insurance company as soon as possible.

About the Authors:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.

Brie Isom joined the News4JAX team in January 2021 after spending three years covering news in South Bend, Indiana.