ILLINOIS (WCIA) — A new report from the American Automobile Association reveals that unsafe driving behaviors are on the rise again after a few years of decline.

The report is based on the 2021 edition of an annual study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Participants admitted to engaging in several unsafe behaviors in 2021 that included driving 15 miles per hour over the speed limit, running a red light, using a phone while driving, driving while drowsy or even driving while impaired by alcohol of marijuana.

AAA said that the number of drivers who admitted to these behaviors had, for the most part, decreased from 2018 to 2019 and from 2019 to 2020. But from 2020 to 2021, AAA saw increases in all unsafe behaviors:

Unsafe Driving Behavior2018 %2019 %2020 %2021 %2020 to 2021 % change
Driven 15 mph over the
speed limit on the highway
Driven while holding and
talking on a cell phone
Driven while reading a text
or email on a cell phone
Driven through a red light31.431.125.628.2+10.1
Driven aggressively by changing lanes
quickly or close behind another car
Driven when so tired it was
hard to keep eyes open
Driven after drinking enough alcohol they believed they were over the legal limit10.
Driven within an hour of consuming marijuana6.
Statistics courtesy of AAA

“The reversal in the frequency of U.S. drivers engaging in risky driving behavior is disturbing,” said AAA spokesperson Molly Hart. “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.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that almost 43,000 people died in vehicle crashes in 2021, a 10.5% increase from 2020. The NHTSA said dangerous driving behaviors contributed to a considerable proportion of these deaths.

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

As dangerous driving behaviors become more common on the road, AAA offered several tips and recommendations to ensure adequate protection against the growing risk:

  • Have adequate insurance protection
    • To avoid paying large out-of-pocket bills.
  • Be mindful of one’s own driving habits
    • AAA members can sign up for AAA Drive via the free AAA mobile app.
  • Be prepared in the event of a crash
    • Keep an emergency kit in the car with first aid and roadside visibility items. Also keep a copy of proof of insurance, a pen and paper in the glove box.
  • Know what to do when a crash occurs
    • Check for injuries, call 911 and remain at the scene. If no one is hurt and the vehicle is drivable, turn on the hard lights and move the car to an emergency lane or parking area; otherwise turn the hazard lights on and move away from the vehicle until emergency services arrive. Exchange information with all parties, take photos of the location, people involved and damaged vehicles and notify the insurance company as soon as possible.