Volvo Cars of North America Underwrites 'Drive for Life'
...initiative challenges Americans to retest their driving knowledge
WASHINGTON, DC (May 27, 2003) - A new national poll reveals that drivers themselves - more than traffic conditions or vehicles - are the greatest safety threat on the road. American drivers admit they knowingly and routinely engage in careless driving behavior and dangerous driving practices.
And the poll revealed it's the harried, hurried, over-stretched drivers in the middle - ages 26-44 - who admit to the most dangerous driving habits. The Mason Dixon Polling and Research Inc. poll of driver attitudes and behaviors was commissioned by "Drive for Life: The National Safe Driving Test & Initiative," a coalition of highway safety experts and advocates.
"We are working hard to make sure cars and roads are safer. But only drivers themselves can solve the biggest piece of the problem by improving their own driving behavior," said Susan Pikrallidas, AAA's vice president for Public Affairs. "Unfortunately, as cars have gotten stronger and safer, drivers have grown increasingly stressed, rushed, distracted and sloppy."
"Drive for Life" hopes to change that. Noting that most drivers haven't passed a driving test since they first learned to drive, the coalition has launched an ambitious nationwide initiative challenging drivers to voluntarily retest their driving knowledge and change their risky behavior - and they're making it simple for drivers to take the "test."
Vic Doolan, president and CEO of Volvo Cars of North America - which is underwriting the campaign - said that "Drive for Life" campaign is consistent with the core value of Volvo: Safety.
"Volvo was founded on the principle that 'cars are driven by people,' " said Doolan. "We pride ourselves on building safe cars, however this program is developed to improve driver behavior, which is integral to safety on the road.
"Drive for Life: The National Safe Driving Test & Initiative" is the new campaign headed by the American Automobile Association and Volvo Cars of North America in partnership with other highway safety, law enforcement and education groups. The initiative was launched at a National Press Club news conference Tuesday.
The project will provide opportunities for Americans to reassess their driving knowledge through:
An interactive Web site (www.safedrivingtest.com), where, among other things, visitors can brush up on safe driving practices with a quick test, take a driving personality quiz, and learn about the keys to safe driving;
A 30-minute national television special - scheduled to air in late summer and also in public schools - that tests viewers' knowledge of safe driving practices and encourages millions of drivers of all ages to be more alert and attentive drivers;
and, a renewed national focus on improving drivers' skills, decision-making and awareness.
The poll revealed that Americans believe cars are safer - but that drivers are more dangerous. Of those polled, 81 percent said they believe cars are safer, 57 percent said roads are safer, but only 27 percent said that drivers are safer than in the past.
The poll also found that:
A clear majority of all drivers (71 percent) - even seniors - speed, and most believe it's OK to routinely exceed the speed limit by 5 mph. Nearly 1 in 3 men believe it's OK to exceed the speed limit by 10 mph.
Most drivers engage in one or more other activities while driving. For instance, 59 percent of drivers say they eat while they drive; 37 percent say they talk on a cell phone while driving; 14 percent even read while driving.
Indy Racing League star Greg Ray, fresh from competing in the Indianapolis 500, is the celebrity spokesman for "Drive for Life." He said common driving mistakes include failing to pay attention or "zoning out," speeding, making assumptions about what other drivers are going to do, driving aggressively, or driving while drowsy, upset or distracted.
"The most basic - and violated - safety rule is to pay attention, to watch what's going on around you," said Ray. "At the speeds I travel on a race track, if I take my focus off the road for a fraction of a second, it can be fatal. Street drivers need to know that their attention to what's happening is just as crucial."
Interestingly, most Americans polled believe that, despite their own troublesome driving behavior, the dangerous driver on the road is somebody else: 77 percent said seniors should be periodically retested and 69 percent favored retesting for teens. In fact, a majority (57 percent) even favored raising the driving age to 18. Yet, drivers ages 26-44 admitted to the most dangerous behaviors on the road.
In 2002, traffic deaths were at their highest level since 1990: 42,850 people died in traffic deaths last year, a 1.7 percent increase over the previous year. As the poll confirms, a lack of driver awareness and education are the final frontier of road safety.
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