The Nevada Department of Public Safety - Office of Traffic Safety contacted the Center for Research Design and Analysis at the University of Nevada, Reno to conduct their third annual statewide telephone survey in order to find out more about Nevadans' driving behaviors and attitudes. The intention of the survey was to look at key elements of driving, including seat belt attitude and usage, speeding behavior, impaired and distracted driving and awareness of safety campaigns.
The Center conducted their survey from March 27, 2012 until July 22, 2012 and received responses from 851 eligible Nevada residents. These were individuals chosen by a random sample who were 18 years of age or older, had a valid driver's license in any state and had driven in Nevada within the past 60 days. The survey also provided basic demographic information for the respondents, such as age, gender, ethnicity, residential zip code and type of vehicle driven most often.
More than half of those surveyed very rarely or never exceed the 65-mile-per-hour speed limit by more than five miles. However, 12.7 percent of Nevadans reported that they drive more than five miles over a 30 mph speed limit most of the time, with 17.5 percent reporting doing so half of the time. Speed is a factor in more than half of all motor vehicle fatalities and serious injuries.
Overall, 91 percent of those surveyed indicated that they always used safety belts when driving or riding in a vehicle, another 6 percent reported that they nearly always use safety belts, and a combined 3 percent reported sometimes and seldom using them. Individuals are four times more likely to survive a crash while wearing their seat belts.
The survey was also meant to determine the effectiveness of the Nevada Department of Public Safety's "Click it or Ticket" campaign, which ran from May 21, 2012 to June 3, 2012.
Fifty percent of Nevadans surveyed after the Click it or Ticket campaign reported that they had read, seen or heard about seatbelt law enforcement by police in the past 60 days. Before the campaign, only 33 percent of those surveyed reported doing so.
Besides the safety risk of speeding and non-seatbelt usage, the Office of Traffic Safety sought opinions on distracted driving behaviors, namely because of the new state law banning the use of cell phones and texting while driving that took effect Jan. 1 of this year.
"The law has had some effect on usage, but not as much as we'd hoped," Traci Pearl, Office of Traffic Safety administrator, said. "So, we need to fine tune our strategies for reaching those folks still using their phones while driving, like more enforcement, better messaging and better targeted education efforts."
The survey showed that 27 percent of Nevadans still use hand-held telephones while driving. This is compared to the 48 percent who reported using hands-free phones. While 48 percent seems like a large number, researchers are more worried about the 27 percent who are still distracted by their hand-held phones while driving, and the 13 percent that reported they still send text messages or emails while driving. Cell phone use while driving increases the risk of causing a crash four times; texting increases a driver's crash risk more than 23 times.
In regard to impaired driving, 67 percent reported that they did not drive within two hours of drinking. However 8 percent still stated that they drove after drinking one to five times within the last 60 days, and 20 percent believe the chances of getting arrested for drunk driving are either somewhat or very unlikely. One third of Nevada's fatalities last year were alcohol related.
The Nevada Departments of Public Safety and Transportation, with other state and local partners, initiated the new Zero Fatalities campaign last year, with an interim goal of halving fatalities by the year 2030. The survey included questions regarding whether or not individuals had heard of this campaign and how they heard about it. The survey showed that 33 percent of participants had heard of the campaign throughout the last 60 days.
The Department of Public Safety uses the results of the survey to help determine where their efforts are working and where they need to focus additional efforts. The information is also helpful for possible legislation of traffic laws.
"It helps our office determine where we should be focusing our education and media efforts on to change 'bad' driving behavior," Pearl said. Questions regarding Nevadans' opinions on things such as changing Nevada's law from a secondary to a primary seatbelt law are also helpful for us and our safety partners throughout the state to share with legislators and other decision makers."
The results of the 2012 Nevada Attitudinal Survey are available online.