Over the last seven years, 44 states have passed laws expressly prohibiting texting while driving, while 14 of them have taken things one step further by prohibiting the use of hand-held cell phones while driving.
Here in Tennessee, all drivers are indeed banned from texting while driving. However, while both school bus drivers and novice drivers are banned from using a cell phone in any capacity, the Volunteer State is not among the 14 states with a hand-held ban.
Unfortunately, a recently released survey by State Farm Insurance found that, despite these measures taken by our state and the 43 others, distracted driving remains a very real problem.
Since 2009, State Farm has conducted an online survey of 1,000 licensed drivers 18 and up who drive anywhere from one to 80 hours a week, and own a cell phone.
This year's survey found that the percentage of drivers who use a hand-held cell phone while driving has actually declined over the last six years, while the percentage of drivers who text while driving remained static over the same timeframe.
As encouraging as this is, however, the survey also found that the percentage of drivers who accessed the Internet while driving jumped from 13 percent in 2009 to 26 percent in 2014, while the number of drivers who read emails while driving jumped from 15 percent in 2009 to 25 percent in 2014.
Even more shocking, the survey found that drivers are growing increasingly unwilling to part with social media access with the number accessing forums like Twitter while behind the wheel jumping from just nine percent in 2009 all the way to 20 percent in 2014.
"We're not sure why [these behaviors]are increasing. But they are just as dangerous," said one official. "People have a perception of what they are able to do with the attention span they have [while driving]. They believe they have available attention they can spend on something in addition to driving."
One interesting side note is that the survey revealed more drivers are attempting to self-regulate when it comes to distracted driving. For instance, 63 percent indicated they were more likely to use their cell phones while stopped at a red light.
This is impressive until you stop to consider data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showing that 36 percent of all car accidents occur at intersections, and that both driver recognition and decision errors accounted for 84 percent of these accidents.
Source: USA Today, "Drivers talk on cell phones less but surf, e-mail more," Larry Copeland, Nov. 18, 2014