Leading by Example in 2014

Anybody familiar with the Foundation’s work has certainly seen or heard us use the phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do,” in describing the nation’s traffic safety culture.

This characterization reflects the fact that high numbers of respondents on our annual Traffic Safety Culture Index survey routinely admit to engaging in the same risky driving behaviors that they say pose a threat to safety, and are unacceptable when performed by others. It’s an attitude that we’d like to see shift toward “Leading by example,” whereby motorists would hold themselves to the same standards they know are necessary for safety on our roadways.

Perhaps not surprisingly, little changed in this regard in our sixth annual survey, just published late last month. So maybe it’s time, then, to take a step back and reflect on why we are so persistent in pressing this issue.

Our latest findings show that one third of Americans have had a friend or relative seriously injured or killed in a traffic crash. That’s over 100 million of us – including some of us right here at the Foundation – who have been touched by loss or affected by the struggles of recovery of a loved one. And each year, more than 33,000 of us lose our lives entirely. For what? Because somebody couldn’t wait for a green light? Couldn’t resist sending a text? Didn’t bother to arrange a sober ride home? Didn’t get enough sleep?

Traffic crashes and the hurt they cause are preventable and outrageous, and our mission of “saving lives through research and education” is centered on identifying risks and solutions to effect real-world improvements. One area in which we began to get new insight with our 2013 survey was marijuana use and driving. With several places now considering or already legalizing marijuana, this is truly an emerging topic that requires study. In 2013, our survey found that more than one third (36.3%) of drivers who reported using marijuana in the past year admitted to driving within one hour of doing so.

Late last month our Research and Development Advisory Committee helped us establish our research priorities for the coming year. As plans are finalized, we will post details here and on our Current Projects web page. As always, we hope you’ll learn about these studies and help us “lead by example” in 2014 and beyond, as we continue to work Toward Zero Deaths in the U.S. and around the world.