by Steven Cohn
Most people know that distracted driving is dangerous. But do they take appropriate action to limit their own distraction while behind the wheel?
Not really, according to an annual survey by State Farm. In a March 2017 press release, the insurance company noted that nearly all drivers (91 percent) reported owning a smartphone, and more than half said they used them while driving.
That’s not good news, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that distracted driving claimed 3,477 lives in 2015 alone, with 391,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
Drivers Use Their Phones Even Though They Know It’s Distracting
This is the eighth survey State Farm has conducted that explores how drivers feel about distracted driving. This year, they found that people who said they used their phones while driving were more likely to have been in a crash compared to those who didn’t use their phones.
The survey also asked drivers about what types of activities they performed on their phones, including texting, browsing the Internet, taking pictures, and recording videos. They found that 29 percent of drivers accessed the Internet while driving, even though 96 percent thought it was distracting and 77 percent thought it increased the likelihood of a crash. Besides talking on the phone, texting remained the most commonly reported reason for using a cell phone while driving.
Overall, the more apps and programs drivers used on their phones, the more likely they were to engage in other types of risky behaviors like racing, failing to wear a seatbelt, driving while fatigued, and using drugs or alcohol before driving.
Even when they were aware of how distracting phones were, respondents still reported using them because they needed to stay in touch, search for information online, or share something with their friends. In other words, they had a hard time resisting using the phone even though they understood that it was dangerous.
Chris Mullen, Director of Technology Research at State Farm, noted that today’s drivers face an increasing number of demands on their attention, but that they still need to make safe choices when behind the wheel for the benefit of everyone.
Laws Do Affect Drivers’ Behaviors
Though drivers were aware of the distracting nature of using their cell phones, many were not aware of their own state laws concerning phone use while driving. State Farm suggested increasing awareness of these laws, because perceptions of laws do affect behavior. Drivers were less likely to talk and text while behind the wheel if they knew it was illegal.
Those drivers who said they never talked, texted, or otherwise used their phone while driving most commonly cited “safety” as the reason. The second more common reason was because they were concerned about legal consequences like fines and losing a driver’s license.