State Farm's newly released report on distracted driving concludes that drivers going online may pose equal or greater safety concerns compared to texting. The July 2012 survey of nearly 1,000 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. The growing popularity of smartphones is contributing to these escalating numbers. The survey revealed an increase in the percentage of drivers who own mobile web devices, as well as an increase in the number of people who report accessing the Internet while driving.

“The mobile Internet is generating another set of distractions for drivers to avoid,” said 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.”

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% in 2009 to 48% in 2012.
  • Reading social media networks while driving increased from 21% in 2009 to 36% in 2012.
  • Updating social networks while driving increased from 20% in 2009 to 30% in 2011.
  • Checking email while driving rose from 32% in 2009 to 43% in 2012.

For all drivers, the data showed:

  • Smartphone 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.
  • Updating social networks while driving increased from 9% in 2009 to 13% in 2012.
  • 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.

“State Farm continues to support a multi-pronged approach to encouraging more engaged driving,” Mullen said. “Regulation, enforcement, education and technology all have a role to play in making our roads safer for all who share them.”

About the Survey

In August 2009 and 2010, and in July 2011 and 2012, State Farm’s Strategic Resources Department used an outside panel vendor to conduct an online survey of U.S. consumers who were all at least 18 years old. Survey responses came in from approximately 1,000 consumers each year. Participants identified themselves as having some insurance and financial responsibility for their household.

Only responses from consumers who had a valid driver’s license, owned a cell phone, and reported driving between 1 and 80 hours per week were used when reporting the findings of behavior-based questions. Responses from all participants were used for the questions about attitudes.