State Farm: ‘Webbing’ While Driving Seeing Disturbing Increase

With the advent of smartphones now long past, various usages of that technology are seeing a “troubling” increase among users as they drive, according to a State Farm survey released Friday.

Accessing the Internet and responding to emails on a phone were among the habits that are at an all-time high for drivers ages 18 to 29, according to State Farm’s latest distracted-driving report, which is in its fourth year and surveys about 1,000 consumers annually.

“More drivers than ever are webbing while driving,” the insurer said in a statement, although the instances of “webbing” go down as drivers get older.

Smartphones are in the hands of more drivers of all ages, according to the survey. Along with the increase in ownership has come an increase in distracted driving.

Motorists surveyed reported record-high levels of engagement in the following behind-the-wheel actitivites:

–Text messaging (34 percent)
–Using an MP3 player (33 percent)
–Reading an email by phone (22 percent)
–Accessing the Internet by phone (21 percent)
–Responding to emails by phone (16 percent)
–Reading social media networks by phone (15 percent)

“It’s not just young drivers who are guilty of distracted driving,” Chris Mullen, State Farm’s director of technology research, said. “This report shows us that using a cellphone while driving is increasing for all ages.”

For Under-30 Crowd, Distracted Driving Rates Higher than in 2009

For drivers under 30 years old, rates of several distracted driving habits are still higher than 2009, when State Farm first conducted its survey:

Activity % admitting to that activity in 2009 % admitting to that activity in 2012
Using an MP3 player while driving 58 64
Reading an email by phone while driving 32 43
Accessing Internet by phone while driving 29 48
Read social media network by phone while driving 21 36
Updated social media netorks by phone while driving 20 30

Survey: Distracted Driving Laws Would Get Support

Though more than 7 out of 10 drivers surveyed said that they “strongly agreed” with prohibitions on texting behind the wheel, about the same amount (nearly 60 percent) said that “laws governing cellphone use while driving are enforced to little or no extent.”

Those rates were on par with previous years, according to the insurer.

An anonymous comment from a survey respondent reads: “I haven’t heard of anyone getting a ticket for texting or talking on the phone.”

Last month, Chris Cochran, spokesman for the Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), talked to Online Auto Insurance News about enforcement issues surrounding texting while driving specifically. While cellphone usage has been easier to spot for authorities looking to curtail distracted driving, he said, texting while driving has proven a more difficult catch.

“Texting is done down below the dashboard, so the officer has to actually see them texting and doing it for a period of time,” he said. “They have to be certain that it’s a text before they can pull it over.”

Meanwhile, 45 percent of respondents said they were “extremely likely” to support technology that would prevent texting or talking on a cellphone while driving.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its “Most Wanted” list this week, and among its recommendations was to “eliminate distraction in transportation.” Part of doing that, the federal organization said, would mean developing technology that stops distracted driving automatically.

“Manufacturers can assist by developing technology that disables the devices when in reach of operators,” the NTSB said.

The NTSB also highlighted events that it said could have been prevented had its recommendations been in place, including a March 2010 incident in which a semitrailer tractor-truck collided with a 15-passenger van.

One of the NTSB’s conclusions was that the truck driver was “distracted from the driving task by the use of his cellular telephone at the time of the accident” that caused the driver to “not maintain control of his vehicle.”

There were nine fatalities in that crash.

Insurance Implications of Texting While Driving

An OnlineAutoInsurance.com analysis that compares car insurance quotes from three major insurers showed the impact of coverage with and without texting-related tickets.

Using a sample profile of a 25-year-old single male motorist with a 2008 Honda Civic DX, driving 10,000 miles annually and seeking 25/50 bodily injury coverage limits, the analysis showed:

–At one insurer, a texting ticket increased insurance rates by 10.5 percent overall.
–At the second insurer, a texting ticket increased insurance rates by 9.1 percent overall.
–At the third insurer, a texting violations did not show any impact on insurance quotes.

The three insurers in the analysis together accounted for about a third of the nation’s auto insurance market.

Motorists should keep in mind that several texting tickets can lead to points charged to a driving record. Those points can often lead to insurance-related surcharges.

Point-related penalties vary by state; New York, for instance, has a relatively harsh three-point penalty for texting behind the wheel.

The presence of several points on a driver’s record will inflate rates, although the size of those price hikes depends on the insurance provider.

About John Pirro
John Pirro is a licensed fire and casualty insurance agent specializing in various aspects of the auto insurance industry. He worked in the auto body repair industry before taking a reporting position at Online Auto Insurance News.

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