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Behaviors and Attitudes


NHTSA studies behaviors and attitudes in highway safety, focusing on drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and motorcyclists. We identify and measure behaviors involved in crashes or associated with injuries, and develop and refine countermeasures to deter unsafe behaviors and promote safe alternatives.

Our recently published reports are listed chronologically below. To the right are additional resources including Behavioral Research Notes and Traffic Techs.

139 Results

Visual Scanning Training For Older Drivers: A Literature Review

This literature review focuses on visual scanning ability and evaluations of training in visual scanning skills for older adults, updating a previous review of studies published from 1997 to 2008 describing age-related functional changes (Staplin, Lococo, Martell, & Stutts, 2012). Researchers searched for literature published from 2005 to 2016 and found 27 relevant studies in four broad categories, visual attention and visual scanning ability; visual scanning behavior; visual search and scanning abilities; and visual scanning abilities in a non-driving context. An annotated bibliography in the Appendix provides more detail on the subset of 16 studies performed in a driving context or that used driving performance as an outcome measure.

Additional Analysis of National Child Restraint Use Special Study: Characteristics Of Those Not Restrained (Research Note)

The National Child Restraint Use Special Study recorded the use of car seats and belt-positioning booster seats in children up to 8 years old in 4,167 vehicles. This report describes the examination of unrestrained drivers, drivers who report having ever driven with unrestrained children, and drivers transporting unrestrained children. Of drivers in the study, 129 were unrestrained; 725 had driven with unrestrained children; 51 percent said that a “short trip” was the reason.

Evaluation of Nighttime Seat Belt Enforcement Demonstration Program And Identification of Characteristics of Unbelted High-Risk Drivers

The present study evaluated the effectiveness of a high-visibility nighttime seat belt enforcement programconducted in Maryland by measuring changes in day and night self-reported and observed seat belt use and crashoutcomes. To better understand the characteristics of unbelted drivers, the study compared the driving records ofmotorists who received seat belt citations during the enforcement crackdown with drivers who were not cited forfailing to use seat belts.

Statistically significant pre-post increases in nighttime seat belt use in the program area were observed for three of the five activity waves.

Analysis of driver records found clear evidence that drivers cited for seat belt violations had poorer driving records than those who were not cited for seat belt violations. Some of the differences were substantial. For example, drivers cited for seat belt infractions were nearly eight times more likely than those not cited to have prior seat belt violations on their driver records.

Analysis of crash data for the program area found significant declines in the proportion of occupants involved in injury crashes that were unbelted, both at night and during the day. For fatal crashes, nonsignificant declines were observed in the proportion of occupants that were unbelted at night, as well as the proportion of occupants that were unbelted during the day and night combined.

National Traffic Speeds Survey III: 2015

A field survey was conducted during the summer of 2015 as a longitudinal repetition to similar efforts undertaken in 2007 and 2009. The goal was to measure travel speeds and prepare nationally representative speed estimates for all types of motor vehicles on freeways, arterial highways, and collector roads across the United States. Over 12 million vehicle speeds were measured at 677 sites included in the geographic cluster sample of 24 primary sampling units (PSUs). Each PSU was a county, or group of two or three counties representing combinations of regions of the United States, level of urbanization, and type of topography (flat, hilly, mountainous). Speeds were acquired on randomly drawn road segments on limited access highways, major and minor arterial roads, and collector roads. Speed measurement sites were selected in road segments with low, medium, or high degrees of horizontal and vertical curvature or gradient.

Older Driver Compliance with License Restrictions

State driver licensing agencies may impose behavioral restrictions, such as driving only at daylight or speed limitations, in lieu of suspension to preserve mobility. This project surveyed driver restriction practices and characteristics among older drivers in four participating States while naturalistic data provided information about driving behavior of restricted and unrestricted older drivers. Older drivers in the study generally complied with imposed restrictions, although such restrictions were seldom employed by licensing authorities. Crash rates were lower for restricted drivers after, as compared to before their restrictions, though not as low as those observed among similar, unrestricted licensees. The naturalistic study found participants with license restrictions drove significantly less often, more slowly, and for shorter distances as compared to unrestricted drivers of similar age.

National Survey on Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors – 2015

The 2015 National Survey on Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors (NSDDAB) is the third in a series of telephone surveys on distracted driving providing data to help further the understanding of driving behavior and to contribute to the development of countermeasures and interventions to reduce distracted driving on the nation’s roadways. Specifically, the 2015 NSDDAB assessed the extent to which drivers are distracted by various activities; demographic and typological descriptions of drivers prone to distractions; the extent and frequency of cell phone use, texting, and use of mobile device “apps” while driving; attitudes and perceptions about distracted driving; knowledge of and attitudes toward measures to deter distracted driving; perceptions about the danger of distracted driving; exposure to the consequences of distracted driving; willingness to intervene when someone is distracted while driving; and changes and trends in distracted driving behaviors and attitudes since 2010. Like the previous studies conducted in 2010 and 2012, this survey yields national estimates of behaviors and attitudes toward distracted driving in the United States. The present study used a driver typology based on the pattern of responses across multiple distracted driving behavior questions. The cluster analysis identified two distinct groups of drivers with similar overall behavioral tendencies and, among those categorized, 42% are distraction-prone and 58% are distraction-averse. Driver type is a powerful predictor of norms and attitudes towards distracted driving behavior and sanctions for distracted driving.

National Telephone Survey on Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors – 2015

National telephone survey of distracted driving to monitor the public’s attitudes, knowledge, and self-reported behavior about cell phone use and texting while driving, and driver choices. 

The Effects of Medical Conditions on Driving Performance

This report investigated the effect of selected medical conditions on the exposure and performance of older drivers. Conditions include COPD, age-related macular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease, and peripheral neuropathy. Performance between groups with and without medical conditions was equivalent in virtually all respects based on vehicle kinematic data and crash and near-crash events. A panel discussion sought input from continuing care retirement communities on identifying residents at-risk for driving and overcoming the organizational and personal barriers when residents experience diminished driving performance.

Matching Countermeasures to Driver Types and Speeding Behaviors

This report summarizes a survey of Idaho drivers to learn more about why drivers speed and the countermeasures that might work. The study provides new insights on speeding countermeasures for various driver types and roadway situations and compared survey self-reported speeding citations with actual driver records, providing information on driver recall and self-reporting of driving behavior.

Interlock Data Utilization

This report summarizes findings on ignition interlock data is used for DWI offender monitoring and offender-related programs such as screening, assessments, and treatment for alcohol abuse problems. It describes the uses of interlock data, procedures for using interlock data, and challenges and issues related to using interlock data.

For Access to older content please go to our archived Research page.