One Study Says Drunk Drivers Fare Better Than Texting Drivers
BY O.J. EARLY
Checking the Web while driving is a common occurrence on America's roadways.
It's also dangerous, illegal in most states, and causing thousands of accidents every year.
State Farm reports that the percentage of drivers who surf the Web while behind the wheel has increased from 13 percent in 2009 to 24 percent this year.
In other words, the national survey found that nearly one-in-four drivers are going online while driving.
"Obviously, distracted driving has become an issue on our roadways," said Megan Buell, public information officer at the Governor's Highway Safety Office. "It's unfortunate that we are seeing these distraction-related crashes increase."
Increase they have.
The number of distracted-related accidents statewide has steadily risen since 2007, Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) records show.
Since 2003, more than 138,000 vehicle crashes -- enough automobiles to fill up all the parking spaces at the University of Tennessee more than eight times -- have come as a result of distracted driving.
In Greene County, distracted-driver crashes have been on the rise since 2009, TDOT data show.
"I know that it is going on, and that it's dangerous," Sheriff Steve Burns said in an interview last week. "Texting while driving is a violation of state law, and it is something we look for."
In 2011 and 2012, more than 300 vehicle accidents in Greene County were attributed to distracted driving.
According to the State Farm survey, the number of drivers using their phones to check and respond to email and read and update social media continues to rise.
The survey also reports that texting and driving, illegal in Tennessee and most states, is growing at a slower percentage than Web-surfing-while-driving.
Still, texting while driving is costly.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that those who text while driving are 23 times more likely to crash.
Road and Driver magazine found in 2009 that the reaction times of two drivers were quicker when they were drunk than when sending a text or responding to one.
The jump in going online while driving is happening largely because of the growing use of smartphones among motorists 40 and older, State Farm's director of research told USA Today.
"With the continued advancement of technology, we continue to see the technology-based distraction crashes," Buell said.
* State Farm's survey found that the portion of people who said they text and drive rose from 31 percent five years ago to 35 percent this year.
* Between ages 18-29, the percentage of people who report texting while behind the wheel decreased from 71 percent in 2008 to 69 percent this year.
* Motorists ages 40-49 who own smartphones capable of accessing the Internet jumped from 47 percent in 2011 to 82 percent in 2013.