Survey also tracks awareness of safety programs, campaigns
TEXAS DRIVERS in 2013 were slightly less inclined to report they exceeded speed limits or talked on a cell phone while driving than they were the previous year, according to recent research.
In the study, funded annually by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) since 2010, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) surveyed Texans’ attitudes toward speeding, driving while intoxicated, distracted driving and seat-belt use in July and August.
John Barton, TxDOT‘s deputy executive director and chief engineer, comments on the importance of driver safety awareness: “The goal of this survey is to track, on a yearly basis, changes in Texans’ attitudes and awareness of traffic safety and the consequences involved with violating traffic safety laws. The survey also focuses on awareness of TxDOT‘s year-round public education campaigns covering a number of safe driving topics.”
Katie Womack, TTI project director for the Statewide Traffic Safety Awareness Study, says, “It’s important to validate that the traffic safety programs, campaigns and media are hitting the mark. People are hearing and recognizing the programs, and some have been affected behaviorally. Researchers study crash rates, but this adds to the picture of how people are aware and mindful that these programs are going on.”
The first set of questions measured changes in driver awareness from previous surveys by asking drivers questions about several traffic safety issues. An increased number of drivers this year — 27.4 percent — said they never go faster than 75 mph when the speed limit is 70 mph, up from 21.8 percent in 2012. Another improvement appears in the percentage of Texans who said they sometimes or regularly talk on a cell phone while driving — 41.6 percent in 2013, compared to 46.6 percent in 2012. However, the percentage who said they sometimes or regularly text while driving remained the same.
A discouraging statistic showed that 88.1 percent of 2013 respondents said the chances of getting a ticket for exceeding the speed limit by more than 5 mph was likely or very likely, a reduction from 93.1 percent in 2012.
Another survey looked into the opinions of Texans about driving safety laws and conditions. According to the 2013 Traffic Safety Culture survey sponsored by TTI‘s Center for Transportation Safety, results showed a healthy portion of Texans favored strengthening laws to advance traffic safety. The same survey was conducted in 2010.
More than 76 percent of respondents said they support passage of a mandatory motorcycle helmet law, and 34 percent said they support a law prohibiting cell-phone use while driving.
Despite improvements in some respects, Texans still generally felt that they were less safe on the road than they were five years before. That sentiment was shared by 40.8 percent of respondents in 2013, up from about 35 percent in 2010.
The surveys also measured changes in driver awareness in regions throughout the state. For seat-belt use, the best improvement on a regional level was in El Paso. In 2012, respondents from the El Paso area were the least likely in the state (32.7 percent) to believe that a person would get a ticket for not wearing a seat belt. In 2013, the number who expected to be cited for a seat-belt violation jumped to 59.9 percent. Also, 72.3 percent of El Paso respondents — the highest in the state — reported they had heard a seat- belt enforcement message in the past 60 days in 2013.