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University of Tennessee poll: Drivers agree texting dangerous, still do it

Center director Jerry Everett said drivers seem to recognize the behaviors could have disastrous results, yet some rationalize that it's OK to take the risk.

The Associated Press

1/26/2012

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A University of Tennessee poll shows Tennesseans overwhelmingly think texting behind the wheel is as unsafe as drunken driving. Yet more than a quarter of respondents said they had texted while driving in the previous month.

The research project was undertaken by UT's Center for Transportation Research. It showed nearly 90 percent of people agree that both drunken driving and texting while driving are highly dangerous. Only 4 percent of respondents said they had driven while drunk in the prior 30 days.

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Center director Jerry Everett told The Knoxville News Sentinel that drivers seem to recognize the behaviors could have disastrous results, yet some rationalize that it's OK to take the risk.

“I realize that eating three Krispy Kreme doughnuts may not be the best thing for me, but sometimes I give into that temptation,” Everett said. “Apparently, that's what many Tennesseans do.”

Responses from 928 Tennessee residents reached by telephone by the UT Center for Applied Research and Evaluation were the basis for the survey, which was taken between February and April last year. Linda Daugherty, assistant director of the center, said the unit handles telephone surveys for other university researchers and outside groups.

Speeding was also viewed as dangerous and about three-fourths of those polled said it was unacceptable to drive 15 miles per hour over the speed limit on a freeway. Still, about 40 percent said they'd done so in the previous 30 days.

Driving drowsy was viewed as unacceptable by more than nine out of 10 surveyed but one out of four owned up to doing it in the last month.

By large margins respondents also supported tougher requirements for drivers at both ends of the age spectrum, backing driver training for new drivers and a hands-on driving test for drivers over 75 to renew their licenses.

Everett hopes the center can do the survey annually to spot trends in how people perceive safety matters. The Governor's Highway Safety Office and The Tennessee Department of Transportation helped fund the survey. 8

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