More drivers surfing the Internet, checking Facebook behind the wheel

Kristin McGrath
The dangers of texting and talking on the phone behind the wheel have been in the spotlight for years -- and have been the focal point of anti-distracted driving laws. But the newest phones allow you to do a lot more than talk and text.

A recent State Farm survey looked into the threat of surfing the Internet while driving. It found that while drivers of all ages have been increasingly taking advantage of their smartphones' features behind the wheel, the most dramatic increase occurred for younger drivers.
The young and the distracted
Thanks to the latest technologies, smartphone users can keep up with their social networks while on the go -- even while they're on the road. According to the survey, the percentage of drivers who used their phones to access the internet while driving increased from 13 percent in 2009 to 18 percent in 2011.
The numbers got even more dramatic when State Farm focused on drivers between ages 18 and 29. Between 2009 and 2011, the following happened for this age group:

  • Using a phone to access the internet while driving increased from 29 percent to 43 percent.
  • Checking social media networks went up from 21 percent to 37 percent.
  • Updating social networks (updating a Facebook status, for example, or sending a tweet) increased from 20 percent to 33 percent.

State Farm's findings echo the findings of a University of Alabama at Birmingham survey released this summer. The survey, performed by UAB college student Lauren McCartney, focused on McCartney's peers. According to the results, 35 percent of the college students surveyed use mobile phone apps while driving.
Changes on the way?
State Farm's survey comes on the heels of the National Transportation Safety Board's proposed ban on all cellphone use behind the wheel. While state distracted driving laws focus primarily on talking and texting, the NTSB's proposed ban would target other increasingly common uses of mobile phones -- like accessing websites and checking Facebook.
"Calls from the NTSB and others to ban cell phones are focusing now on both texting and web use while driving. The mobile web is a growing issue for safety advocates concerned about distractions while driving," State Farm's public affairs vice president, David Beigie, in a news release.

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