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Study: One-fourth of drivers surf web while behind the wheel

Posted by: Tim Harlow Updated: November 12, 2013 - 1:31 PM

A new survey out Tuesday finds that motorists are doing more than texting and talking with their phones while driving.

Nearly one in four drivers say they access the Internet while they are behind the wheel, up from just 13 percent five years ago, State Farm Insurance reported in its 2013 Distracted Driving Survey.

The jump is attributed to the exploding number of drivers who own Smartphones and use them to do everything from talking to composing and reading text messages and email to updating social media networks.

"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," said Chris Mullen, State Farm's director of technology.

Drivers between 18 and 29 were still the most likely to access the web, with 49 percent saying they had engaged in the risky behavior. But as the number of drivers over age 30 who own Smartphones has risen dramatically, so has the number of drivers who use them while behind the wheel.

Drivers between 40 and 49 saw the sharpest increase in Smartphone ownership, growing from 47 percent two years ago to 82 percent in 2013. Next, drivers between 30 and 39 saw a 26 percent jump from 60 percent in 2011 to 86 percent this year. The number of drivers between 50 and 64 rose from 44 percent in 2011 to 64 percent in 2013.

Research has long shown that texting or web surfing can be dangerous and even deadly.

In 2009, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reported that text messaging while driving increased the risk of a safety-critical event (crash or near crash) by 23 percent. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says sending or reading a text message take 4.6 seconds. That means a motorists going 55 miles per hour would travel the length of a football field in that time.

Overall, here are a few more numbers from the survey for all drivers over 18:

Read email on cellphone: 24 percent

Access Internet on cellphone: 21 percent

Respond to email on cellphone: 16 percent

Read social media networks: 15 percent

Update social media networks: 13 percent

Texting: 35 percent

Talk on a hand-held cellphone: 57 percent

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