A new poll by State Farm Insurance finds that nearly one in four drivers accesses the web while driving. The four-year survey also shows an increase in older drivers who own smartphones, and that adults and seniors – not just teens – are texting while driving. We’ll discuss the findings and ideas to encourage safer driving.

David Strayer, professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Utah and leader of the Distracted Driving Lab
Chris Mullen, director of technology research for State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and lead researcher on their distracted driving survey
Daniel Hill, public information officer with the California Highway Patrol

  • Bob Fry

    Yeah…I’ve done a bit of this myself and I’m in my 50s. And every time I do it I get so distracted as to scare myself and I swear I won’t do it again. I want my self-driving car!

  • Thomas

    With the advent of voice recognition in mobile devices there’s no longer an excuse for texting the old fashion way using fingers or thumbs. One can simply dictate one’s text message as if speaking to a passenger in the adjacent seat. Still not advisable but certainly better than looking down at a keypad.

  • Bob Fry

    Driving is like flying a plane? No. As a private pilot, I’ll tell you that takeoff and landing require ALL your attention, but cruising at altitude is often boring and demands little. I’d much rather fly than drive.

    • Another Mike

      When I’ve flown with my friend, while cruising we are all looking for the flash of light that could mean another plane headed in our direction.

      • Bob Fry

        Sure, your eyes are looking towards the horizon, but basically collisions are avoided by the “Big Sky” theory: big sky, few planes. Everybody I know who’s installed a traffic detector is surprised by how many planes they don’t see.

  • Another Mike

    When I’m crossing the street, it’s never comforting to see a young woman whipping around the corner, staring at her lap.

    Another tip off is when people are driving 10 mph under the limit on the freeway. They do not have enough brain to focus on two things at once.

    • C.A.

      What about old men whipping around the corner? Not really sure why you would only single out “young (women).”

      • Another Mike

        If I ever saw an old man whipping around the corner I would have made a mental note of it. Are there a lot of negligent older male drivers where you live?

        • C.A.

          I have seen many older male drivers using their cell phones; and using their cell phones while driving in and of itself is negligent.

  • Jon Gold

    I ride a motorcycle and, yes I’ve tried to be on a call with a headset while riding and it really didn’t work, motor noise too loud. So, 100% of the time I’m riding/driving the bike, I’m hyper-alert to doing just that and nothing else. Do I see drivers in their cars on their phones? Yes! All the time! And I’ve seen CHP motorcyclists come up next to drivers windows and pull them over…people try to hide it and that’s more a distraction!

  • Ted Chen

    The LifeSaver mobile application provides Drivers an effective tool to break their Distracted Driving addiction. Once installed, LifeSaver runs in the background, activating quickly and automatically to lock the phone when the car starts driving and unlocking the phone when the car comes to a stop. LifeSaver also provides for driver monitoring and rewards to accelerate the driver’s behavior change away from Distracted Driving. Let’s put an end to Distracted Driving and the thousands of related deaths each year.
    Please visit http://www.lifesaver-app.com.

    • Bob Fry

      Thanks for this. Not yet ready for iPhone but I am now on their notification list.

  • Gary Woodruff

    I have many friends who a CHP officers and two are sargents. They talk on their cell phones all the time, and also have to look at their computer screens in their cars all the time. how do we have two sets of rules? I guess it has something to do with setting a good example, just like using your turn signal which is almost never used by police officers in general. I drive over 35,000 miles per year and watch this all the time.

  • geraldfnord

    Some people may well call in to say that this will hurt their business. I’m sure it will in some cases, but that’s not definitive: we don’t care that some people’s businesses depended, or so they said, on eleven-year-olds’ losing limbs in sorting coke straight from the mine.

    If it will hurt your business not to be allowed to use the phone, then perhaps you should be able to apply for a particular licence allowing it, and predicated on strict testing of the driver’s abilities, including in reaction to sudden problems requiring attention immediate and full.

    And, at the risk of over-snarking:
    I am surprised that people are addicted—that is, they use even when they know that it were potentially very bad for them—to the use of technology made by firms whose business model depends on addiction. (In the case of simple calls, the addiction is to continual and immediate availability.)

  • frednoland

    I’ve been a bicycle rider for sport and commute for ten years and have seen the incidence of cellphone and personal electronic use (GPS and television) skyrocket in that time. I’ve had to train myself to watch out for the glow of an electronics screen or the tell-tale slumped posture of a driver using a device along with all other road hazzards. Drivers kick open doors (when parked) and pull out of spaces while engaged with their devices and drive looking at their GPS instead of the road. There is an attitude of entitlement that goes along with low impulse control that is at the root of the problem.

  • James Ivey

    Seriously?! Texting, even while stopped, is as bad as driving drunk?! Ridiculous.

    The most distracting thing in a car is a baby facing backwards in the back seat, and that’s perfectly legal. Let’s consider all the other things that are perfectly legal to do while driving: apply makeup, read a newspaper, drop a lit cigar in your lap, eat a double cheeseburger, sleep, etc. Where’s the law for all those? If there’s a general law covering all or some of those, why doesn’t it cover technology?

    • Bob Fry

      It’s legal to sleep while driving?? Wow, great news!!

    • C.A.

      How is a baby facing backwards in the back seat the most distracting thing in a car? Not all parents put mirrors in front of their babies when they’re facing backwards, in order to see their babies, which is distracting and not encouraged.

      I think they made really good points in the discussion how texting/using your smart phone in your car while stopped is dangerous, and can potentially cause harm.

    • Jenny

      James, I completely agree with you.

    • chrisnfolsom

      As in all things there is a balance…. That is why technically you can alcohol in your system while driving – just not too much – which is an arbitrary level as alcohol affects everyone differently at different times… So what to do? Test everyone for their tolerance to texting, talking, pgs, makeup? I think “Just don’t do it” makes sense. No one txt’s thinking they will crash, but plenty do. I think the penalty should be in training, not in penalties.

      I also have a hard time with those who blame others for crashing when they do the same thing – just because you have txt’d/drank and drove does not mean you are better then someone who crashed – you could (most likely) were just luckier.

  • Harvey Alcabes

    There’s a fun video at https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=1391966474377723 showing drivers in Europe trying to pass a test requiring them to text while driving and failing miserably. Perhaps we companies encourage drivers to take such a test to truly get the message first hand; could insurance companies offer incentive to people who take such classes?

  • John Fournet

    The chaos will continue until these activities are made moving violations with points against the violators driving record which will affect the drivers insurance rates and or cause a loss of driving license license . Make these activities a moving violation and be done with it.

  • Another Mike

    There are two types of technology in the car — one type demands your attention while the other doesn’t. I found even when listening to language tapes in the car, years ago, that I would just tune out the tape when driving demanded my attention. But if someone asks me a question requiring thought while I drive, I have to demur.

  • Momma KAC

    We have heard people who have been in tragic accidents say they wish they could take that instant back. Just go back that one instant, and avoid the crash. Well, take that instant BEFORE anything happens. I would be devastated if I hit anyone, thoroughly embarrassed if I veered off the road while distracted. I take every instant as prevention of a crash or other accident. I pull over if there is something so pressing that I need to communicate. I will do the cell phone thing before pulling out of my driveway or parking spot. Please people, “Don’t text and drive”.Kathryn, Mountain View

  • Jon Gold

    I can remember when I first used a cell phone while driving, back in 2003…I was distracted, far away in my head on that call with the person. I got more used to it over time, but I remember those first few calls and how I was really scared concerning that separation.

  • Harvey Alcabes

    People who think they can text and drive should watch a short, fun video at https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=1391966474377723 showing drivers trying to text and drive. Perhaps we could incentivize drivers taking such a test.

  • My 15-year old daughter said she would make a special little box in the car for her cell phone when she started driving. Every time she would get in the car, she would put the cell phone in it’s ‘special place’. I just made myself a box like that and will install it in the car, out of my reach while driving, right after this show is over. Thanks for addressing this very important topic!!

  • Jennifer Barnes Dirking

    About a month ago I wound up in the fast lane of Hwy 280 near woodside,
    behind a texter who was swerving an entire car width onto the shoulder
    of the freeway. I broke the law myself to call 911 and was giving them
    our location and her license plate just as she HIT THE CENTER DIVIDE –
    destroying her car and severely injuring herself. I was lucky enough to
    get around the accident and pull over on the center divide myself –
    paramedics were there instantly, as the call was already in progress.
    Probably most terrifying moments of my life – glad we are both alive.
    listeners need to understand the violent and graphic nature of these
    texting accidents – I agree that this deserves drunk driving penalties –
    jail, since fines arent enough. – Jennifer Dirking in San Carlos

  • James Ivey

    Some electronic devices actually help you focus on driving. GPSs navigate for you and speak directions to you — no more looking at maps while driving. Even reporting hazards on Waze doesn’t require you to look away from the road. You wave your hand in front of your phone and speak commands like “report heavy traffic”.

  • Stephanie Green

    Are we all so important and indispensable that we deserve the right to endanger others? There is a time and place for everything. It’s time to grow up and make responsible decisions. Turn the damn thing off! Once you are behind the wheel of a car, you are not needed for anything else. The world will still turn.

  • geraldfnord

    I once got a ride from a family friend who had very nearly gone to the Olympics…twenty years previously. He drove with great speed and accuracy, but after one particular manœuvre I asked, ‘Is that really safe?’

    His reply, ‘Don’t worry, I have very good reflexes.’ was met immediately by my question, ‘How would you like to find out they’re getting slower?’

  • Trevor Hastie

    There is a difference between talking to a passenger and talking to a remote person on a cellphone. The passenger can see why you pause the conversation, while the remote person cannot. By being unaware of the situation in the car or on the road, the remote person imposes additional demands on the driver.

  • C.A.

    Thank you for this very important topic. Listening to this discussion today has made me decide to change my behavior. I am one of those in the “non-teen” age bracket that does use my smart phone in the car, but only while stopped.

    The point of this discussion that we need to also be aware of our surroundings (other cars, pedestrians waiting to cross the street, etc.) while driving, yet stopped, makes me understand how important being 100% engaged while driving is. When the car is stopped, now I know it is just as important to not look at my smart phone as when the car is moving.

    I want my loved ones and myself to remain safe out there, and I will do the same for others by changing my behavior. Spread the word on how using your smart phone behind the wheel of your stopped car is just as bad as while it is moving!!!

    Not only get the word out on this one point, also increase those fines, add the points to driver licences, take away people’s right to drive, etc. Thank you!

  • Vidula Aiyer

    Thank you for baring the topic! An awareness driven campaign like the one for impact of tobacco seems highly relevant and should be effective for this as well. In our family we have reduced the calling on the phone while driving even to our kids who are sometimes hard to reach; but we still make exceptions which I am thinking we really need to stop. I also think there needs to be some reassessment of the expansion of technology in the vehicles and reverse the proposed trend of making the car your entertainment center.

  • shac

    Yes you can get in an accident while at a red light. I was at a light when I was sending a quick text. I thought i saw the light turn green so hit the gas, but the light hadn’t turned green and I ended up rear ending the person in front of me. I know firsthand how important it is to pay attention even when stopped. Phones should just go in the trunk.

  • Dede Shelton

    My brother has a Tesla S, he has a 17 inch screen that can search the web and do what ever he wants while the car is in motion! this is terrible. It also does not go off in the dark, so you have the light shining on you always. It can be turned down a bit, not much. But he can read the NY times while driving! huge screen. Tesla needs to make the function turn off while in motion. Just saying

  • Jenny

    We don’t need more ‘lock ’em up and through away the key’ policies. If you want to penalize drivers for looking at their cell phones while they are behind the wheel, you also need to penalize them for changing the radio station, glancing at the instrument panels, changing climate controls, etc. You need to make clear distinctions between different electronic activities performed behind the wheel, whether they are performed in motion vs. non-motion, and the duration of the activity, e.g. 1-2 sec vs. 5-6 sec. I can’t tell you how many times I briefly look around or into space (to pass the time) while I’m waiting at a red light. What is the difference between doing this and glancing at my phone for a couple of seconds?

    We need common sense and an effective education campaign, not more jail time. I don’t perform ANY activity while driving (or stopped) if I feel distracted by that activity.

  • Jenny

    Pardon the typo below; it should be “…throw away..”

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    The CHP spokesperson had a lot of excuses for cops talking on the job! Near the VA in SF, a young officer in a national park police car was yacking away with her window down. No way that was “official business”.

  • Samantha

    Let me begin by saying that i agree that drivers should pay full attention to driving and not engage in distracting activities.

    That said, there is an alarmism here along with an undercurrent of “Kids these days…” here that i simply cannot allow to go unchallenged.

    Here are some facts that provide a little perspective.
    1) The number of traffic fatalities has been steadily decreasing over the last 50 years both in absolute numbers and per 100M people. 2010 is no exception, despite seeing a dramatic rise in texting-while-driving behavior.
    2) Likewise, the number of injuries has been steadily decreasing, again, both in absolute numbers and per 100M people.
    3) The number of police-reported crashes declined slightly from 2009 to 2010.
    4) From 2010 to 2011, the number of injuries due to distracted driving declined from 416,000 to 387,000. Again, in spite of dramatic increases in texting-while-driving behavior.

    All told it is considerably safer to be driving today, even with all of these kids texting and driving, than it was when Mr. Krazny was a teen, or when i was a teen in the 1990s.

    Again, i don’t disagree that texting while driving is an undesirable behavior, but overdramatizing the dangers only undermines the credibility of the speakers. i actually agree with the fundamental position of the guests on today’s show, but i found myself forced into arguing against it because of how badly this ‘epidemic’ was exaggerated.

    Data Sources: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811552.pdf and http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/

    • chrisnfolsom

      Wouldn’t the decline be even higher if texting was not an issue? Cars are getting safer – perhaps there would be even more of a drop….

      • Samantha

        That is absolutely possible. On the other hand it is also possible that while cellphone technology is relatively new, driving while distracted is not and that only the type of distraction has changed.

        Additionally, there have simply not been very many short-term dramatic shifts in crash rates, injury rates or fatalities historically. ‘Distracted driving’ would be masking quite a large and unusual drop if that’s what it was doing, and i can’t think of any good reason for that drop to exist.

        • chrisnfolsom

          One drop could be the cost of gas which could have reduced overall travel (no statistics) – there are so many different factors – drug use, alcohol, economics affecting all of it as well as the social stigma of drinking and driving changing after 30 years of awareness and more restrictive fines. I am sure it makes it hard to make policy decisions – I just believe that destroying someones life (and their family) for making impulsive decisions and throwing them into our penal system which is more about punishment then treatment and controlling the root causes (habits, social pressures etc) is terrible especially when it applied to different people in different ways as the poor are penalized many time the rich monetarily who get somewhat of a free pass.

          I think having sensors in cars which measure strange driving habits – swerving, hard/late stops, fast take off – and alert you to how you are different (perhaps add an alcohol sensor) so you can make decisions based on results – not your biased “idea” of what is right so YOU will be responsible and either continue without changing, or stop or change – again, based on real data.

  • disqus_63X8zNMKNl

    It’s so heartening to see all these comments from people who realize, agree, that talking on the phone while driving is very dangerous; thinking you can text while also driving seems just crazy. It seems so obvious that when you’re talking on the phone, hands free or not, your attention is elsewhere, it’s hard to understand how people can just say, Oh well, that doesn’t apply to me, and continue to entertain themselves with their phones while driving a enormous, powerful machine at speeds that will kill anyone in their path.
    Thank you, thank you to KQED for airing this program! This is another reason why stations like KQED are so vital to our society. It’s a mystery why people are so self-centered that they think they have the right to endanger others so that they can indulge in such totally non-essential things as entertaining themselves with their phones, etc. If people are “bored” by driving, try listening to a book on CD, to music, to intelligent radio. Thank you again, Michael Krasny!

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  • MattCA12

    The penalties for using a smartphone in any capacity while driving are a joke. They need to harsh, like they are for DUI.

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