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Message not received on distracted driving

Published: Friday, Nov. 15, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

As the busy holiday travel season approaches once again, expect to see many reminders about the dangers of driving while using a cellphone or texting someone.

Most states have ongoing public service campaigns; others will step up enforcement of laws against distracted driving.

But as you traverse the miles, take a look at the drivers around you. Chances are good many of them will have a cellphone seemingly cemented to their ear or their fingers and thumbs will be flicking across a tiny keyboard at the speed of light.

That’s because for all the attention being focused on the problem, it appears nobody’s listening.

Or at least they are too entranced by their cellphone conversation to hear the message.

Not only that, the trend is growing in frequency across all age groups, according to a new State Farm study.

The insurance company conducts an annual study of how pervasive such problems really are – and this year found that although a majority of people support laws that prohibit such behavior that isn’t about to stop them from doing it themselves.

Seventy-four percent of the people surveyed backed laws that made it illegal to text or send email while driving, and a little less than half said they would use devices that would disable texting or emailing while they were driving.

But also most believe there is little that will be done if they are caught. More than half of those responding believe there is a lack of enforcement for laws against cellphone use behind the wheel.

And those aren’t even the most dangerous practices, the survey found. More and more people are admitting to accessing the Internet while driving – doubling from 13 percent in 2009 to 24 percent this year.

It’s not all teens, either. The fastest-growing segment of smartphone users are age 30 and older. Those in the 30- to 39-year-old age group are actually equal in number to those from ages 18 to 29. The percentage of drivers who own smartphones has skyrocketed among other age groups, too: Up to 82 percent for 40 to 49, 64 percent for ages 50 to 64 and 39 percent for those 65 and older.

“As smartphone ownership increases for all age groups, the safety community must ensure we are keeping pace with our understanding of the types of distractions drivers face,” said Chris Mullen, director of technology research at State Farm. “Much attention is paid toward reducing texting while driving, but we must also be concerned about addressing the growing use of multiple mobile web services while driving.”

Too many drivers of all ages seem to be of the impression it’s a problem that is caused by the “other” people. Although they recognize such things as sending a text message while driving is very distracting (76 percent do), that isn’t stopping them from doing it.

Until we can make the message heard, whether through education or enforcement, there’s not likely to be much change.

The (Alton) Telegraph

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