Study reveals record number of distracted drivers

Photo Jenna Mackey, staff photographer

Photo Jenna Mackey, staff photographer

by Camille Lozano

State Farm, an insurance company, recently released a study revealing more motorists are accessing the Internet while on the roadways than ever before.

In 2009, 13 percent of drivers were accessing the Internet on their cell phones while driving. That number has nearly doubled to 24 percent of people who use the Internet while driving in 2013, according to the survey.

In addition, the number of drivers who own smartphones has increased, with 78 percent of 18 to 29 year olds in 2011 and 86 percent in 2013, according to the survey.

The biggest jump in older drivers owning smartphones was in the 40 to 49 age bracket, with 47 percent in 2011 and 82 percent in 2013. According to another study from Pew Research Center, 56 percent of American adults own smartphones.

The State Farm “Distracted Driving” survey was conducted from 2009 to 2013, obtaining responses from approximately 1,000 U.S. drivers each year. Participants were 18 years and older and claimed to have some insurance and financial responsibility for their household, according to a State Farm press release.

San Diego State’s School of Journalism & Media Studies professor Rebecca Coates Nee said smartphones have become a prevalent tool for all ages.

“Social media and cell phone technology has been spread throughout the population and has now reached a critical mass,” Nee said. “It used to be skewed toward the younger people, but now older people are just as comfortable using it and probably getting addicted in similar proportions as well.”

Nee said people use smartphones while driving because of “the fear of missing out.”

“Because we can get these messages so instantly, we feel that we need to respond instantly, which isn’t always the case,” Nee said. “We are afraid we are going to miss something, but we forget about the days when nobody had cell phones.”

A random sample survey of 50 students taken on Nov. 22 at SDSU revealed 62 percent use their smartphones while driving.

The traffic division of the San Diego Police Department revealed more statistics regarding distracted driving incidents in the San Diego, with studies conducted in 2012 and 2013.

SDPD officer Mark McCullough said in 2012 there were 4,303 injury collisions in San Diego, with 322 involving distracted driving incidents among drivers ages 20 or younger. Of those 4,303 incidents, 43 resulted in fatal collisions with one reported fatality of an individual 20 or younger, McCullough said.

Strictly examining the period between January and October in 2012, there were 3,605 crashes resulting in injuries, 263 of those involving young drivers (20 and younger) with one fatal crash. Between January and October this year, there was a decrease in the crashes involving injuries with 3,432 reported, but a significant increase of 40 percent amongst younger drivers with 367 crashes. There were four fatal crashes this year amongst younger drivers, an increase of 300 percent, McCullough said.

Though the primary cause of almost all of the crashes involving younger drivers was speeding, McCullough said many also involved some sort of distraction.

He said in 2012, there were 15,094 citations for distracted driving.

Child and family development sophomore Jessica Torres shared her thoughts on the statistics.

“It’s a little scary,” said Torres. “Personally, I don’t use my phone while I drive so I’m being cautious for myself but who knows who else is using their cell phone, maybe even the car in front of you, you never know.”

Photo Jenna Mackey, staff photographer