Fighting distracted driving was a passion for the former Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood. Under his leadership, DOT created a series of distracted driving videos and worked with the entire transportation industry to limit this practice. But, the dangerous practice is increasing even among older drivers.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is still leading the effort to stop texting and cell phone use behind the wheel. Since 2009, DOT has held two national distracted driving summits, banned texting and cell phone use for commercial drivers, encouraged states to adopt tough laws and launched several campaigns to raise public awareness about the issue.
Much of that education was aimed toward those who texted the most — the young. But a disturbing study completed by State Farm in July of this year of 1,000 motorists shows that texting and driving is now reaching an older demographic. Overall, the news is not good at all. According to the study, “The percentage of drivers who access the internet on their phone while driving has nearly doubled over the past five years, going up from 13 percent in 2009 to 24 percent in 2013.”
“As smart phone 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.”
While much of the distracted driving focus has been on young people, the data indicate that the percentage of motorists who own smart phones is increasing for all ages:
Ages 18-29: 78% in 2011 to 86% in 2013
Ages 30-39: 60% in 2011 to 86% in 2013
Ages 40-49: 47% in 2011 to 82% in 2013
Ages 50-64: 44% in 2011 to 64% in 2013
Ages 65+: 23% in 2011 to 39% in 2013
Now, to be totally honest, distracted driving involves more than only texting and driving, but because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction.
According to DOT these are the main distractions for drivers:
Using a cell phone or smartphone
Eating and drinking
Talking to passengers
Reading, including maps
Using a navigation system
Watching a video
Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player
Solutions? No good solutions seem to have been found. Even with education, cell phone use in cars keeps climbing and texting while driving is a bigger problem today than it was when these campaigns started.