AAA: Dangerous driving behaviors on the rise, according to new report

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

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According to the new study by 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%.

“The reversal in the frequency of U.S. drivers engaging in risky driving behavior is disturbing,” said Mark Jenkins, public relations manager for AAA, the Auto Club Group. “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.”

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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 crashes in 2021. That’s a 10.5% increase from the 38,824 fatalities in 2020.

According to NHTSA, dangerous driving behaviors such as speeding, alcohol impairment and non-use of seat belts account for a considerable proportion of the increased fatalities.

“Traffic patterns have largely normalized since the start of the pandemic, yet traffic fatalities are at their highest level in nearly two decades,” Jenkins 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.

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AAA tips for drivers:

  • Make sure you are protected with adequate insurance coverage. If your policy doesn’t include uninsured motorist coverage or has low minimal liability limits, you could be stuck paying some big bills out of pocket. AAA offers a free Triple Check to help you understand your insurance coverage from any company.

  • Be mindful of your own driving habits. AAA members can sign up for AAADrive via the free AAA Mobile App. This tool helps you become a safer driver by giving real-time feedback and providing resources that promote safe driving and reduce dangerous activities.

  • Be prepared in the event of a crash. Keep an emergency kit with first-aid and roadside visibility items (e.g., flashlight, flares) in your car. You should also keep a copy of your proof of insurance (plus a pen and paper) in your glove box, and add your insurance company’s phone number and your policy number to your phone.

  • Know what to do when a crash occurs. Check for injuries, call 911 and remain at the scene. If no one is injured and your vehicle is drivable, turn on the hazard lights and safely move it to an emergency lane or parking area. If the vehicle can’t be moved, turn on the hazard lights and go to a spot safely away from moving traffic until emergency services arrive. You should exchange information with all parties, take photos of the location, people involved and damaged vehicles, and notify your insurance company as soon as possible.

  • Move over for me. If you see flashing lights ahead and are driving past a crash or disabled vehicle, slow down and move over a lane to give the stranded motorist and first responders the space to be safe on the roadside. For more information on why this is so important, visit

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