More than 80 percent of Michigan motorists feel drivers talking on cell phones are more likely to be involved in a crash, despite the fact more than 56 percent admittedly make and accept cell phone calls while driving, according to a statewide phone survey conducted for the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP).
The percentage jumps to nearly 96 percent when asked about potential crash involvement for drivers who are texting or emailing while driving.
According to Michigan crash data, nearly 4,000 crashes in 2010 listed the driver condition as distracted. Cell phone use was indicated in 881 crashes.
The 600-sample telephone survey was conducted by Glengariff Group, Inc., in advance of April's National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
Those surveyed were asked about driving habits, cell phone use and texting while driving, Michigan's texting law and their stance on cell phone legislation.
"It appears drivers are aware of the dangers of being distracted by cell phones and texting," said Michael L. Prince, OHSP director. "But the ability and pressure to be constantly connected and available seem to trump traffic safety as motorists continue to talk and text while driving."
More than 42 percent of the phone survey respondents believe a texting driver is as dangerous as a drunk driver, while 33 percent felt drivers talking on cell phones were as dangerous as drunk drivers.
Although Michigan law prohibits drivers from reading, manually typing or sending a text message while driving, 8.2 percent of respondents admitted to sending texts and emails while driving and nearly a quarter of that group indicated they did so daily.
More than 17 percent of respondents said they looked at incoming texts and emails while driving and 19.4 percent of them did this daily.
Age appears to play a role in distractions in the vehicle, with respondents under age 30 being significantly more likely to groom themselves, use their cell phone to make and receive calls, or send and receive texts or emails while driving.
The findings were similar in another survey by State Farm Insurance.
In a survey of nearly 900 motorists, the company found that use of mobile web services has increased dramatically over the last two years.
For drivers 18-29:
- Accessing the internet while on a cell phone while driving increased from 29 percent in 2009 to 43 percent in 2011.
- Reading social media networks while driving increased from 21 percent in 2009 to 37 percent in 2011.
- Updating social networks while driving increased from 20 percent in 2009 to 33 percent in 2011.
"While calls from NTSB and others to ban cell phones have focused largely on texting, it would seem that a growing and potentially larger concern for safety advocates is the rapid increase in the use of mobile web services while driving," said David Beigie, State Farm Public Affairs Vice President. "Additionally, while the focus has been on young people, the data also indicates that motorists of all ages are increasing their use of the mobile web while driving."
For all drivers, the data showed:
- Accessing the internet while on a cell phone increased from 13 percent in 2009 to 18 percent in 2011.
- Reading social media networks while driving increased from 9 percent in 2009 to 14 percent in 2011.
- Updating social networks while driving increased from 9 percent in 2009 to 13 percent in 2011.
Ironically, the study showed that use of texting while driving was remaining flat or decreasing in some instances:
- For drivers 18-29, 71 percent said they engaged in texting while driving in 2009. That number dropped to 64 percent in 2011.
- For all drivers this number stayed relatively flat coming in at 31 percent in 2009 compared to 32 percent in 2011.