Current Projects

The AAA Foundation is currently working on several projects in each of its four research focus areas: safety culture, senior safety and mobility, teen driver safety, and road safety. This page contains a brief synopsis of each study, and is updated periodically as milestones are achieved. (Note: to access completed research reports, fact sheets, and presentations, visit Completed Projects.)

Should you have questions, or if you are interested in learning more about the Foundation’s work, you are welcome to contact us at info@aaafoundation.org

 

SAFETY CULTURE

Measuring Cognitive Distraction in the Automobile -- Phase 3

The Situation: The prevalence and sophistication of in-car infotainment and  communications technologies are skyrocketing, and many are marketed as safe by  virtue of being hands-free.

The Project: In this study, the AAA Foundation and its partners at the University of Utah are applying cutting-edge methods to evaluate the mental elements of driver distraction. The first phase established a scale for rating the levels of cognitive distraction caused by various hands-free tasks performed while driving. Phases 2 and 2A applied this rating system to more tasks in various vehicle manufacturers’ systems. Phase 3 expands the testing of new car systems, examines whether drivers self-regulate their driving in response to higher cognitive demands, and includes participants with a wider range of ages than have previously been studied. An additional study will look at cognitive workload related to driving and using various cell phone systems (electronic assistants).

The Significance: This study will further reinforce the Federation’s status as a leading expert on distracted driving and emerging vehicle technologies. And, it will provide the science for AAA to work with automakers and tech suppliers to ensure responsible implementation of advanced vehicle technologies for the safety of all members.


Assessment of Crash Causation and Contributing Factors Using Naturalistic Driving Data

The Situation: Many causes of crashes—such as distracted or drowsy driving—are widely underreported in federal crash data, because this information comes from police reports. Thus, the true risk factors associated with many dangerous behaviors are not truly well understood.

The Project: This study will analyze video footage of thousands of crashes captured on in-vehicle cameras in a large sample of vehicles, examining in unprecedented detail the true crash causation factors as seen before and during the crash, rather than after the fact. The project initially focuses on distracted and drowsy driving.

The Significance: Project findings are expected to greatly enhance our understanding of the dangers posed by various risky behaviors. This will position AAA as the leading expert on crash causation and related policy stances.


The Traffic Safety Culture Index 

The Situation: Since 2005, the AAA Foundation has been committed to studying and improving the nation’s “traffic safety culture,” with the ultimate goal of fostering a society that values and rigorously pursues safety for all road users. Now perhaps our signature issue, the AAA Foundation leads the national dialogue on this important subject.

The Project: To study and benchmark traffic safety culture, the AAA Foundation has conducted annual, nationally-representative surveys of the American public since 2008. Now recognized as the authoritative reference on the subject, the Foundation’s survey findings are used to benchmark and track the public’s attitudes and behaviors over time. In 2014, the Foundation will expand the sampling to allow for state-level reporting for 24 states that cover 80% of the U.S. population.

The Significance: The survey findings garner significant media attention, and are used to complement numerous Foundation studies and AAA outreach efforts.


Drugged Driving: Cannabis Studies


The Situation: The legalization of marijuana for medicinal and/or recreational purposes in numerous jurisdictions has shone a spotlight on how little is known about the drug’s effects on driving. As state and Federal policies on cannabis evolve, understanding the potential traffic safety implications will become increasingly important.

The Projects: Two studies will each address a major issue. (1) Researchers will examine the relationship between changes in Washington State cannabis laws and the incidence of cannabis-impaired driving, as well as the relationship between cannabis levels in driver blood samples, in order to understand the relationship between acute cannabis use and motor vehicle crashes. (2) Researchers will examine drug test results from drivers arrested for driving under the influence of cannabis, and fatally injured drivers who tested positive for cannabis, in order to assess the implications of a per se law making it illegal to drive with a certain concentration of cannabis in one’s blood.

The Significance: Study results will help improve our understanding of cannabis-impaired driving, and help AAA and other organizations determine their policies. It will also help states by providing an evaluation of the effect of legalizing marijuana and introducing a per se limit.



National Survey of Driving Habits and Trends


The Situation: Timely data on the amount, type, and circumstances of Americans' driving (i.e., exposure to risk) is vital to understanding traffic safety. Currently, the sole source for such information is a large federal survey conducted only once every 7-8 years.

The Project: The objective of this in-house effort is to collect nationally-representative data on the driving habits of the American public, by surveying 4,200 drivers annually.

The Significance: This project will provide AAA with key insight into the driving habits and trends of the motoring public generally. It will also generate a unique database that will substantially enhance Foundation studies, by filling a major knowledge gap with regard to how often and how far people are driving.

 


Everyone’s At Risk

This in-house study provides an update to the very popular Everyone’s At Risk report that the Foundation produced jointly with AAA in 2006. That report documented, for the first time, the fact that fully one in three people killed in crashes that involved a teenage driver were other people outside of the teen driver’s vehicle. Since the time of that report, the number of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes and the number of people killed in those crashes has decreased dramatically due to a variety of factors including the success of state GDL programs championed by AAA as well as the economic downturn and rise in gas prices. This study will provide a thorough analysis of changes and trends in teen driver crashes, and deaths of teens as well as others in those crashes, from the time of the original Everyone’s at Risk report through the present time, and will review relevant literature regarding the reasons for those changes.


The Changing Composition of Drivers over the Business Cycle: Implications for Automobile Safety

This research will use a new data set that allows us to examine the characteristics of individual drivers, rather than the often inaccurate data that is publicly available. The novel data set comes from OnStar, which remotely records individual drivers’ exact vehicle miles traveled and collects information about drivers and their safety record. Based on their findings, the authors will make policy recommendations for improving highway safety.

 


 

SENIOR SAFETY AND MOBILITY

Understanding the Safety and Mobility Needs of Tomorrow's Older Drivers 

The Situation:The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 10,000 people will turn 65 every day from now until 2030. Understanding the safety and mobility needs of these newly-minted seniors is a pressing concern.

The Project: Titled the LongROAD study (Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers), this project will generate a wealth of data by tracking a large group of older drivers (roughly 3,000) for an extended period of 5-10 years. This will shed light on the effects of aging and medication use on safe driving, specific risk factors (e.g., deteriorating vision), circumstances surrounding driving cessation, and mobility options for seniors who no longer drive. The project is now operational at 5 sites across the country.

The Significance: This study will provide AAA with the scientific backing needed to advocate for effective policies and programs. The database it creates will also serve as a “go-to” resource for answering the most pressing questions about senior safety and mobility for years to come.