Webbing While Driving

Distracted driving takes many forms….it can range from applying make up or shaving to reading the newspaper….while attempting to negotiate the morning commute.  The types of bizarre activities could make for a funny “top ten list” on late night television, but I believe the biggest threat comes from the most mundane and predictable activities that distract drivers.

Talking on a hand held, “finger dialed” phone is one of the most threatening distractions on the road.  It takes people’s eyes off the road while dialing, and it removes a big portion of their mind’s focus from the highway to the conversation.

A new threat has been on the rise, too.  Checking emails, surfing the web, or using a smart phone for navigation has been on the increase.  Using web-enabled devices, or “webbing while driving” for short, provides a fresh focus on an old problem.

State Farm (among other insurers) periodically performs surveys to see what’s happening among drivers.  The surveys help point out what’s really going on behind the wheel and can help traffic safety professionals rethink policies and priorities.

In a November 16th press release, State Farm summarizes findings from their most recent survey which shows “significant use of mobile web in vehicles”. 

“The July 2012 survey of nearly 1000 motorists shines a light on a growing safety concern: people accessing the internet while driving. Four years of data show a significant increase in the use of mobile web services while driving.”

Also from their press release:

While the distracted driving focus has traditionally been on young people, the data indicate that motorists of all ages are using the mobile web while driving.

For drivers 18-29:

    • Accessing the internet while on a cell phone while driving increased from 29 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2012.
    • Reading social media networks while driving increased from 21 percent in 2009 to 36 percent in 2012.
    • Updating social networks while driving increased from 20 percent in 2009 to 30 percent in 2011.
    • Checking email while driving rose from 32 percent in 2009 to 43 percent in 2012.

For all drivers, the data showed:

    • 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 percent in 2009 to 21 percent in 2012.
    • Reading social media networks while driving increased from 9 percent in 2009 to 15 percent in 2012.
    • Updating social networks while driving increased from 9 percent in 2009 to 13 percent in 2012.
    • Of course, several new models of sedans have been released with “built-in” web connectivity featuring wifi for passengers, but limiting web surfing (using a manual interface) for the driver while the car is in “park”.   

Of course, the range of services is greater for drivers with voice recognition equipped cars.  “Hands free apps” include the ability to obtain turn by turn navigation, but also the ability to have your car read you your horoscope for the day.  Also, you can get stock quotes, vehicle health reports, sports scores, and movie listings while driving.  Is it any wonder webbing while driving is popular among smart phone users?  

So does your company policy (or family policy?) cover webbing while driving?  Should it be expanded to include these features?  Is it OK to use voice recognition to get your daily horoscope?

Interestingly, the State Farm survey also asked about ways to curb the undesirable road behavior: 

“When asked for their opinion on ways to reduce distracted driving, 72 percent 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 percent were extremely likely to support technology that would prevent texting or talking on a cell phone while driving.”

While drivers are ready to acknowledge that risky driving habits need to be curbed, they are often reluctant to give up the technology that contributes to the very issue at hand.  This has been documented in many surveys where drivers are quick to condemn other drivers, but won’t or can’t acknowledge that their own driving isn’t much different from the targeted “at-risk” behaviors.

The simplest advice is to focus on the task at hand.  Drive with hands on the wheel, eyes on the road, and your mind paying attention to signs/signals and the other drivers out there.

SafetyFirst is a driver safety firm that works with most insurance carriers and agents.  We also work with employers in most every industry segment to help them devise and fine tune policies that actually curb unsafe behaviors instead of merely talking about them.  If you’re part of our “in-network” coverage group, we may be able to provide certain programs and services at no cost to you for the benefit of your employee-operators.  If you’re “out of network” we can provide a competitive quote on services ranging from MVRs, telematics, Hotline programs and more.

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