Avoiding the “webbers” on the road

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It’s sort of appropriate, in a way, that State Farm released its annual research report on distracted driving ahead of one of the busiest series of travels days in the U.S. – obviously centered on the Thanksgiving holiday next week.

State Farm’s findings, by the way, shouldn’t surprise any truckers but should also heighten their awareness as they prepare to haul freight over the holidays. Though texting while driving remains a concern on the nation's highways, State Farm’s research indicates that people are also now “webbing while driving” with increasing frequency – that is, accessing the Internet while behind the wheel.

The insurance giant stressed said such behavior may pose equal or greater concerns in terms of how such activity distracts drivers and raises the risks of a crash.

State Farm said its July 2012 survey of nearly 1,000 motorists shines a light on the growing safety concerns surrounding people accessing the internet while driving, with four years of data showing a significant increase in the use of mobile web services while driving:

  • For drivers aged 18 to 29, accessing the Internet while on a cell phone while driving increased from 29% in 2009 to 48% in 2012.
  • Those 18 to 29 year olds also peruse social media networks more frequently while driving now, going from 21% in 2009 to 36% in 2012.
  • They also update social networks while driving more now, too, increasing from 20% in 2009 to 30% in 2011.
  • Finally, 18 to 29 year olds admit the more checking of email while driving, as those numbers increased from 32% in 2009 to 42% in 2012.

For all drivers, the numbers are no prettier:

  • Smart phone ownership is on the rise, and people who report webbing while driving goes down with age. 
  • Accessing the internet while on a cell phone increased from 13% in 2009 to 21% in 2012.
  • Reading social media networks while driving increased from 9% in 2009 to 15% in 2012.
  • More update social networks now while driving, too, increasing from 9% in 2009 to 13% in 2012.

“The ‘mobile Internet’ is generating another set of distractions for drivers to avoid,” warned Chris Mullen, director of technology research at State Farm. “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.”

Yet few of those polled think regulations banning such activity behind the wheel works:

  • When asked for their opinion on ways to reduce distracted driving, 72% of drivers surveyed strongly agree with laws or regulations prohibiting texting or emailing behind the wheel. 
  • However, almost two-thirds believe that laws governing cell phone use while driving are enforced to little or no extent.  
  • To a lesser degree, 45% were extremely likely to support technology that would prevent texting or talking on a cell phone while driving.

That’s quite a conundrum, to say the least. In any event, truckers should take heed and scrutinize the vehicles surrounding them that much more closely as “turkey day” approaches, for it seems they might encounter more “Webbers behind the wheel” this holiday than they’ve done before.

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