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Changes in Cell Phone Use and Distracted Driving

The increasing popularity of smart phones has had a noticeable impact on driver behavior, according to a new study from State Farm. Annual surveys conducted by the insurance company demonstrate that smart phone-specific behaviors such as surfing the Internet, checking email and accessing social media sites have risen steadily over the past six years. The impact on the total amount of distracted driving is somewhat offset by a reduction in being using cell phones for actual calls while behind the wheel. The survey shows that cell phone use of one type or another has continued to rise among drivers.

State Farm first took a national survey of cell phone behavior in 2009. Since that time, the percentage of drivers who surf the Internet while driving has risen 13 percent. The percentage who read email has risen 10 percent. Finally, the percentage who use their phones for social media while driving has risen 11 percent. The percentages have risen despite the proliferation of laws banning texting and hand-held cell phone use in a number of states. 

The State Farm survey identified one potential impact of laws against cell phone use while driving. More than 60 percent of drivers reported being more likely to use their cell phones while stopped at a light than while driving. While the majority of cell phone laws outlaw this behavior, 63 percent of respondents acknowledged this form of distracted driving. Cell phone use at stop lights is the target of new enforcement programs funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Source: USA Today, "Drivers talk on cell phones less but surf, e-mail more," by Larry Copeland, 18 November 2014 

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