The holiday travel season is upon us, and the local State Farm headquarter office in Murfreesboro released its annual research report on distracted driving, with troubling findings. Though cell phone use and texting while driving remain a serious concern on the nation’s highways, with increasing frequency drivers admit to other distracting behaviors, particularly accessing the internet while driving.
The July 2013, survey of nearly 1000 motorists highlights a growing safety concern: a significant increase in the percentage of drivers who own smart phones, particularly among drivers age thirty and older. Additionally, the percentage of drivers who access the internet on their phone while driving has nearly doubled over the past five years, going up from 13% in 2009 to 24% in 2013.
The survey results also showed the use of hands-free cell phones while driving has increased, while the percentage of people talking on a hand-held cell phone or texting while driving has become stagnant over the past three years.
“As smart phone ownership increases for all age groups, the safety community must ensure we are keeping pace with our understanding of the types of distractions drivers face,” said Chris Mullen, Director of Technology Research at State Farm. “Much attention is paid toward reducing texting while driving, but we must also be concerned about addressing the growing use of multiple mobile web services while driving.”
While much of the distracted driving focus has been on young people, the data indicate that the percentage of motorists who own smart phones is increasing for all ages:
- Ages 18-29: 78% in 2011 to 86% in 2013
- Ages 30-39: 60% in 2011 to 86% in 2013
- Ages 40-49: 47% in 2011 to 82% in 2013
- Ages 50-64: 44% in 2011 to 64% in 2013
- Ages 65+: 23% in 2011 to 39% in 2013
We asked drivers to share how distracting they find a variety of common occurrences:
- Hand-held cell phone: very distracting – 34%, somewhat distracting – 46%
- Hands-free cell phone: very distracting – 14%, somewhat distracting – 43%
- Sending a text while driving: very distracting - 76%, somewhat distracting – 14%
- Reading a text while driving: very distracting – 62%, somewhat distracting – 27%
- Talking with a passenger: very distracting – 4%, somewhat distracting – 41%
- Reaching for a non-moving object: very distracting – 22%, somewhat distracting – 62%
- Attending to children in the back seat: very distracting – 41%, somewhat distracting – 29%
- Pet in lap: very distracting – 53%, somewhat distracting – 20%
- Reaching for a moving object: very distracting - 61%, somewhat distracting – 31%
When asked for their opinion on ways to encourage drivers to be more engaged in the task at hand, 74 percent of drivers surveyed strongly agree with laws or regulations prohibiting texting or emailing behind the wheel. However, more than half believe that laws governing cell phone use while driving are enforced to little or no extent. To a lesser degree, 44 percent of survey respondents were extremely likely to support technology that would prevent texting or emailing on a cell phone while driving.
“State Farm continues to support a multi-pronged approach to encouraging more engaged driving,” Mullen said. “Legislation, enforcement, education and technology all have a role to play in making our roads safer for all who share them.”
Kip Diggs, State Farm