Survey shows drivers are cutting down on texting while driving

It seems the numerous laws and campaigns on the dangers of distracted driving had a positive impact on people’s driving habits in the last year.  According to a National Insurance survey, almost 1 out of 3 drivers take more initiatives to reduce the risks of distracted driving than they were a year ago.

From the 1,005 U.S. adults surveyed by Harris Interactive, 67% of drivers admitted to talking on their cell phone while driving, down 6% since 2007, and 30% say they do it less often than they did last year. Texting while driving is a bit less frequent but more stable over the years, with 20% of drivers doing it compared to 19% in 2008.  Such number increases to 47% for drivers under the age of 35.  The good news is that of all the texting drivers, 40% of drivers said they are exchanging less text messages while driving than in the past.

“This is the first survey we’ve seen showing drivers making positive changes in their behavior, but there are still too many drivers who either don’t realize just how dangerous distractions behind the wheel are, or are willing to take that risk,” said in a statement Bill Windsor, Nationwide’s associate vice president of Consumer Safety. “The stigma now associated with distracted driving may also have fewer people willing to admit they do it, but studies continue to indicate that distracted driving causes one out of every four U.S. crashes.”

The survey also raises some questions about the use of hands-free devices.  About two-thirds of drivers said they rarely or never use such device.  For the other third that uses them, 66% feel safer by doing so, and 24% of these drivers said they talk more since they started using a hands-free device.

“This survey shows that it is likely that when handheld cell phone laws are passed that a number of people will switch to hands-free devices and their usage of the phones will actually go up,” said Windsor. “More research needs to be done on the extent of crash risk related to the cognitive distraction aspect of cell phone use. We need to be sure that for this segment of heavy users it does not actually result in increased crashes.”

Of all the driving distractions surveyed, cell phones were the biggest distraction.  The other major driving distractions were eating and drinking (29%), using a GPS device or changing stations on the radio (19%), smoking (6%), putting on makeup (3%) and reading (2%).

Source: Nationwide Insurance Press Release, May 27, 2010

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