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Nine out of 10 motorists admit to careless driving, survey finds

WASHINGTON—Drivers consider aggressive and careless motorists their biggest worries, but most admit that they sometimes drive that way themselves, according to a road safety group.

Nine out of 10 drivers admitted to having done something stupid on the road within the last six months, according to a survey released Thursday by Drive for Life, a safety group sponsored by Volvo of North America. Young drivers were the most likely to admit it, the study found.

"When it comes to highway safety, we the driver are our worst enemy," Drive for Life coordinator Art Carlson said of the group's third annual U.S. poll.

In it, 74 percent of the 1,100 respondents said careless or aggressive driving was the biggest threat on the road. A majority said other drivers aggravated them the most, while 16 percent cited traffic delays and 14 percent said road conditions.

Asked what behaviors in other drivers annoyed them the most, a third of drivers said cell phone usage. Tailgating and not signaling filled out the top three.

Those polled admitted that they were part of the problem. Ninety percent said they'd made the roads less safe at least once in the last six months. They said their main offenses were speeding (68 percent) and eating while driving (52 percent).

About half of those interviewed (54 percent) said they felt less safe on the road than they did five years ago.

According to the Transportation Department's latest crash data, highway fatalities are dropping, although the decline isn't statistically significant; 42,643 people died on U.S. roads in 2003, down from 43,005 in 2002.

Airbags, anti-lock brakes and other new safety technologies have caused many people to let their guard down, said William Shapiro, Volvo of North America's head of automotive safety.

Other common road blunders:

_17 percent said they paid little attention to those orange signs near roadway work zones.

_One in 10 drivers admitted to a distracting "romantic moment" while driving.

Drivers 16 to 20 years old all admitted to making a mistake at least once in the last six months. Justin McNaull of AAA, a Drive for Life sponsor, said their responses raised the most concern. He urged parents to "give kids a better chance by modeling good driving behavior."

Overall, 16- to 25-year-old drivers were the likeliest to say they'd driven hazardously. Seventy-four percent of them said they'd speeded, compared with 68 percent of the rest of the drivers. Young drivers also were the most likely to say they'd driven while upset or driven aggressively in the previous six months.

Drivers older than 65 were the least likely to report driving errors.

Three out of four drivers surveyed favored stricter licensing controls for those over 75. Majorities also called for retesting every 10 years.

The survey has a margin of error of 3 percentage points. The National Association of Police Organizations, the National Sheriff's Association and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration paired with Volvo to promote Drive for Life.

Bill Johnson, the executive director of the police group, offered a direct message to young drivers:

"Pull over, kids, you got time."


(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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