95% of Drivers Fear Drugged Motorists, but Cellphone Use Is the Biggest Safety Issue

Friday, December 28, 2012

Although 95% of California drivers think driving under the influence of drugs, legal and illegal, is a problem on the road, the number one safety issue they cite is the use of cellphones.

Cellphone talking and texting distractions leaped to #1 this year in a survey by the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), passing speeding and aggressive driving. Just over 51% of respondents listed cellphone use as the biggest problem in 2012, up from 38.8% last year and 18.3% in 2010. It was followed by speeding and aggressive driving at 22.7%, bad road surfaces (16.5%) and “other driver behavior” (15.3%). No other category received more than 10%.

The ticket for talking on a cellphone or texting while driving is a minimum $159 for a first offense. A second offense costs a minimum of $279. Older people surveyed thought the fines were higher, younger people thought they were less.

The statewide survey, which was conducted in the summer at gas stations in 15 counties, found a split between older and younger drivers. Older ones tended to think talking on a cellphone was the bigger danger, while younger drivers, perhaps expressing their own personal experience, said texting was the bigger problem.

Nearly 60% of drivers said they had been hit or nearly hit by someone distracted by their phones, and 45% admitted to screwing up themselves while talking a cell.

Despite laws that discourage talking or texting while driving, 7.7% of drivers over 70 admitted they did it, while 31.1% of drivers 25-34 fessed up.

The further south you go in the state, the worse the perception of the dangerous cellphone driver becomes. Almost 68% of Southern California drivers thought talking and texting was the worst problem, but only 48% in Central California and 34% in Northern California shared that sentiment.

While drivers in general believe that women (42.3%) talk and text more than men (7.8%) on the road, a larger portion of men (26.6%) than women (17.9%) said they were guilty of talking. The same held true for texting (17.7% of men, compared to 14.2% of women).

A multi-agency crackdown on cellphone-using drivers, conducted in Northern California between November 30 and December 9, nailed nearly 3,000 alleged scofflaws in eight counties. One woman pulled over by Vacaville police was allegedly straddling two lanes while trying to order concert tickets. There was no mention if she was successful.

–Ken Broder             


To Learn More:

Crackdown on Car Cellphones (by Bill Lindelof, Sacramento Bee)

Survey Shows California Drivers Recognize Dangers of Drug-impaired Driving (California Office of Traffic Safety) (pdf)

California Traffic Safety Scorecard (California Office of Traffic Safety)

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