The results are disturbing — many more drivers admitted to engaging in potentially distracting...

The results are disturbing — many more drivers admitted to engaging in potentially distracting behavior while driving in 2020 than in past years.

Photo: State Farm

Nine out of 10 motorists (89%) said they engaged in at least one of 14 distracted driving behaviors that involved the use of their phone while behind the wheel, according to a new survey from State Farm.

The range of activities drivers perform on a cell phone while operating a vehicle runs the gamut. For example, 66% said they talk on a hands-free phone, up from 55% in State Farm’s 2015 survey. Some 59% say they program the navigation system while driving and 49% admit to talking on a hand-held phone as compared with 51% for each of those activities in 2015.

But it doesn't stop there. Drivers can’t seem to put their phones down and focus on the road. Rather, the latest survey found that 36% update their social media, 32% take photos, 30% record video and 28% play games while behind the wheel.

This is the ninth time State Farm has conducted the survey and the results are disturbing. Overall, many more drivers admitted to engaging in potentially distracting behavior while driving in 2020 than in past years.

The survey also found that certain groups of drivers were more likely to drive distracted. People under age 40 were much more likely than those age 40+ to say they engaged in each of the behaviors studied.

As for the gender breakdown, men were far more likely than women to participate in most of the distracted driving activities.

Noteworthy, survey respondents seem to be aware that engaging in the 14 activities studied causes distraction, which can be dangerous — yet they do so anyway.

For instance, 92% of drivers believed reading email while driving was distracting, yet one-third (32%) reported doing it anyway. In addition, nearly three out of five believed manually interacting with a phone while driving greatly increased the likelihood of an auto accident.

The findings also showed that two specific factors increased the likelihood of a driver fiddling with their phone.

Almost half (47%) of drivers surveyed said they had been involved in at least one auto accident as a driver where they had been determined to be at fault or where no fault was established. These individuals were significantly more likely to report participating in distracted behaviors while driving as compared to those who had not been in an accident.

Secondly, motorists who drive vehicles equipped with an advanced safety feature such as Automatic Emergency Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, or Lane Keeping Assist, were more likely to report using their phones for various activities. Apparently, these drivers say they feel more comfortable taking their eyes off the road while safety features are active.

What will get drivers to ditch their phones and focus on the task at hand? The almighty dollar, for starters.

At least three-quarters of drivers said fines of $500 or more, or license suspensions of six months or longer, would deter them from using their phone while driving. Only 55% said laws, by themselves, were effective deterrents.

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