A driver uses a cellphone while in traffic in San Francisco.(Photo: Jeff Chiu, AP)
Nearly seven in 10 young drivers still text behind the wheel, and a
growing number of them access the Internet on their cellphones while
driving, according to a new annual survey by insurance company State
Despite years-long national campaigns against texting while
driving, which is now illegal in 39 states and the District of Columbia,
68% of drivers ages 18-29 reported engaging in the practice, up from
64% last year. That compares with 34% of all drivers who reported
texting while driving, up from 32% a year ago.
There were even
sharper increases in the equally risky behavior of surfing the Internet
while driving: 48% of young drivers reported accessing the Web behind
the wheel, up from 43% last year. Those figures exclude programming a
"It could be" that the nation's anti-texting campaigns
should include warnings about surfing while driving, says Chris Mullen,
State Farm's director of technology research.
"The evolution of
the technology - and the speed at which it's changing - requires us to
continually change our messaging to make sure it's relevant," she says.
2009, State Farm has conducted an annual online survey of about 1,000
licensed drivers 18 and older to study drivers' attitudes and behaviors
regarding distracted driving.
The Department of Transportation
says that 3,092 people were killed and an additional 416,000 were
injured in distracted-related crashes in 2010; 18% of all injury crashes
that year involved a distracted driver.
"The results of the
(State Farm) survey tell us that we need to do a better job of reminding
drivers that any and all cellphone use behind the wheel is dangerous,"
says Jonathan Adkins of the Governors Highway Safety Association. "Teens
in particular need to be encouraged to turn the phone off and put it
out of sight while driving. As the survey results indicate, we have a
long way to go before the public recognizes the dangers of distracted
Whatever the safety messages, many drivers apparently believe they can safely text and surf while driving.
Mayer, 35, a technology consultant in Marietta, Ga., who logs about
20,000 miles a year, says he regularly surfs the Internet and texts
while his vehicle is moving.
"I do it (surf) if I have to look up
something," he says. "I usually do it at the stoplight or on the
highway, usually not on surface streets. I've done it everywhere, dirt
roads, wherever I need to look up information."
Mayer, who says
he's had few citations and three minor crashes, none related to
distracted driving in 20 years of driving, says he knows that texting
and surfing are risky. "But so is putting on your makeup, eating or
talking on the phone," he says. "The most distracted drivers I see are
usually people talking on the phone and not paying attention when
they're changing lanes. They've got the phone up to their head, looking
forward, talking. ... I usually don't even talk on my cellphone. I hate
talking on the phone."