The next big driving distraction: 'Webbing'

By Barbara Marquand on February 20th, 2013

Although texting while driving is still a big safety concern, it's by no means the only troubling high-tech driving distraction.

"Webbing" while driving is on the rise, according to new research from State Farm.

Of all drivers surveyed, 21 percent say they access the Internet while driving, 15 percent check Facebook or other social media networks, and 13 percent update their social networks behind the wheel.

That's up from 13 percent who logged onto the Internet while driving in 2009 and 9 percent who checked or updated social networks.

The statistics are even more troubling for young drivers, ages 18 to 29. Among these drivers:

  • Almost half -- 48 percent -- report accessing the Internet while driving.
  • Thirty-six percent admit checking social media, and 30 percent say they've updated social media while driving.
  • Forty-three percent say they've checked email while driving.

Smartphone, dumb driving

The proportion of young motorists webbing while driving increased by at least 10 percentage points in each category since 2009. State Farm attributes the increase to the growing share of drivers who own smartphones.

"The mobile Internet is generating another set of distractions for drivers to avoid," State Farm Director of Technology Research Chris Mullen said in a press statement. "While the safety community is appropriately working to reduce texting while driving, we must also be concerned about the growing use of multiple mobile web services while driving."

Although webbing while driving has grown more common, it still hasn't overtaken texting or talking on a cell phone while driving. Fifty-seven percent of all drivers and 74 percent of drivers ages 18 to 29 admit to talking on the phone while behind the wheel. Thirty-four percent of all drivers and 68 percent of drivers ages 18 to 29 say they have sent or received text messages while driving.

Although a sizable portion of drivers admits to using a cell phone while driving, most apparently think it's a bad idea. Seventy-two percent say they strongly agree with laws that prohibit texting or emailing behind the wheel. A smaller portion, 45 percent, say they are extremely likely to support technology that would make it impossible to text or talk on a cell phone while driving.

"State Farm continues to support a multi-pronged approach to encouraging more engaged driving," Mullen said. "Regulation, enforcement, education and technology all have a role to play in making our roads safer for all who share them."

The July 2012 survey polled almost 1,000 motorists online, and is the fourth annual distracted driving survey conducted for the insurance company.


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