Study finds most drivers admit to using phone behind wheel — and when

(November 18, 2014) BLOOMINGTON, Ill. —  Though a large majority of drivers support laws prohibiting cellphone use while driving one thing is apparent: people are still using them. State Farm Insurance surveyed consumers about when they were more or less likely to use their phones when driving.

Among drivers who indicated they use their cellphone while driving, this is what the survey learned.

Percentage of drivers who say they are more likely to use their cellphone when:

     Stopped at a red light - 63 percent
     On an open highway - 30. percent

Percentage of drivers who say they’re less likely to use their cellphone under these conditions:

    Dark outside - 75 percent
    Fog - 91 percent
    Snow - 92 percent
    Icy - 93 percent
    Heavy traffic - 78 percent
    Construction zone - 87 percent
    Rain - 88 percent
    School zone - 83 percent

One particularly troubling finding: at least 10 percent of respondents reported that driving in school zones and construction zones has no impact on their cellphone use.

“It’s interesting to see that many drivers report assessing driving conditions when they make choices regarding using their cellphones,” said Chris Mullen, Director of Technology Research at State Farm. “However, we want to remind people that there are demands on their attention when driving whether moving or not, and to please stay 100% focused on their drive.”

Six year trends

For six years State Farm has been conducting this survey of people’s attitudes and behaviors when it comes to cellphone use while driving, and trends have emerged.

    • There has been a steady reduction in the number of drivers talking on a hand-held cell phone.

    • The number of people who report texting while driving has remained stable over six years.

    • Smartphone ownership is growing. In 2011, 52 percent of drivers reported owning a smartphone, and by 2014 that number grew to 80 percent. We see the greatest increases in smartphone ownership among adults age 40 and older.

    • Smartphones create new distractions. There is a significant increase over six years in drivers using their phones for: accessing the Internet, reading email, responding to email, programming and listening to a navigation system and reading social media.

    • Drivers are more likely to talk on a hand-held phone than they are to text message while driving. Both of these activities are the greatest for drivers ages 18-29 and decreased as the age of drivers increased.

    There has been an increase in the percentage of drivers who say they talk on a hands-free cellphone while driving. This is possibly due to advances in hands-free technology and enactment of laws restricting hand-held use.

“These six-year trends make it apparent that smartphones have created many new distractions for drivers to juggle,” Mullen said. “While much attention is paid to the dangers of talking and texting while driving, it’s critical that we also address the increasing use of other smartphone features and other sources of distraction.”

About the survey

In August 2009 and 2010, and in July 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 the State Farm Strategic Resources Department used an outside panel vendor to conduct an online survey of U.S. consumers ages 18+. Survey responses were received from approximately 1,000 consumers each year, who identified themselves as having some insurance and financial responsibility for their household.