Dangerous Drivers: Unsafe driving behaviors are on the rise

Start
1 min read

No, you weren’t imagining it. The roads have been more dangerous lately and drivers have become more careless. New research shows that more drivers have been throwing caution to the wind in the last two years.

A new AAA report reveals that unsafe driving behaviors increased from 2020 to 2021. The increase comes after three years of steady declines. 


According to the new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the rise in risky behaviors included speeding, red-light running, drowsy driving, and driving impaired due to cannabis or alcohol. The most alarming increase was among drivers admitting to getting behind the wheel after drinking enough that they felt they were over the legal limit — an increase of nearly 24%. 

Dangerous Drivers: Unsafe driving behaviors are on the rise

“The reversal in the frequency of U.S. drivers engaging in risky driving behavior is disturbing,” said Montrae Waiters, AAA-The Auto Club Group spokeswoman. “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.” 

Traffic fatalities have increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2021. That’s a 10.5% increase from the 38,824 fatalities in 2020. According to the administration, dangerous driving behaviors such as speeding, alcohol impairment, and non-use of seatbelts account for a considerable proportion of the increased fatalities. 

Dangerous Drivers: Unsafe driving behaviors are on the rise

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 Behavior 2018(%)2019(%)2020(%)      2021(%)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 cell phone52.143.237.237.4+0.5
Driven while reading a text or email on a cell phone41.338.633.936.2+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 had enough alcohol that you thought you were over the legal limit10.99.85.97.3+23.7
Driven within an hour of consuming cannabis6.66.54.45.0+13.6

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

As dangerous driving behavior becomes more common on the road, AAA recommends that drivers ensure that they are adequately protected against the growing risks on the road.