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Most Americans Admit Risky Driving

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By DEE-ANN DURBIN
Associated Press Writer

May 27, 2003, 4:32 PM EDT


WASHINGTON -- Over 90 percent of drivers say they speed, eat, use cell phones or even read while at the wheel, a poll says. And they say they're sure other drivers are worse.

Ninety-one percent of drivers of all ages acknowledged at least one risky activity in the previous six months in the poll, which was released Tuesday by Volvo Cars of North America, AAA and Partners for Highway Safety.

Speeders made up 73 percent of drivers; 59 percent ate while driving; 37 percent used a cell phone; 28 percent wore no seat belt; 26 percent used no signal when turning; and 14 percent admitted to reading while driving.

"We worry about the car, the weather, the driver in front or behind us. But we don't spend nearly enough time worrying about our own driving habits," said Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations.

Drivers were likely to say that someone else on the road was more dangerous than they were. Drivers from 26-44 were most likely to engage in risky driving, but when that age group was asked which drivers should be retested to make sure they're driving safely, 83 percent said seniors and 69 percent said teens. Only 56 percent said everyone should be retested.

Of those 65 and older, 68 percent said teens should be retested and 59 percent said seniors should be retested. Of those under 26, 83 percent said seniors should be retested and 47 percent said teens should be retested.

Volvo, AAA and Partners for Highway Safety have started Web site that invites drivers to test their driving knowledge and learn about safe driving techniques. The group also plans to air a half-hour television special this summer on safe driving.

Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist, who is working with the group, said there is a critical need for drivers to re-examine their behavior.

"The simple fact is most highway fatalities can be avoided," he said.

The drivers polled also said drivers have gotten more dangerous. Of those polled, 81 percent said cars are safer than in the past and 57 percent said roads are safer, but only 27 percent said drivers are safer.

The poll was conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. from May 13 to 16. It questioned 1,100 drivers ages 16 or older and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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