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Distracted driving: The contradiction between belief and practice

Most psychologists and sociologists would tell you that there is often a disconnect between what people say they want and what they actually want. The same is true with self-reported behavior. People are far more likely to report behaving in a way that they consider to be "good" than replying with an honest answer that might make them feel judged.

For this reason, anonymous surveys may be the best way to get an honest answer most of the time. Yet even in such scenarios, respondents often give answers about personal behaviors that are incongruous with their stated beliefs. A recent AAA survey about distracted driving is a good example.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, most survey respondents believe that distracted driving is dangerous and that people should pay attention behind the wheel. There were similar views on speeding and driving drowsy.

Yet about one-third of drivers surveyed admitted that they regularly drive distracted or take other dangerous risks despite knowing and believing that their behaviors are "unacceptable." Some drivers even admitted to taking such risks despite having a loved one who was killed or seriously injured in a car accident.

It could be that many drivers feel that they are somehow the exception to the rule when it comes to driving behaviors that they would find unacceptable for others. Commenting on the survey results, one AAA representative noted: "When it comes to red-light running, most people absolutely find that unacceptable, yet more than a third admit to doing it once in the past 30 days.”

With distracted driving, teenagers are not the only culprits. Many of us can rationalize our behavior by saying that we are "good drivers" and can "handle it." But at the end of the day, safe driving must be a choice each of us makes whenever we get behind the wheel.

Source: WLRN, "AAA Survey: We Don't Like Distracted Driving, But We Do It Anyway," Gina Jordan, Feb. 12, 2015

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