Drivers: We’re texting, talking less

mobile phone use while drivingU.S. drivers have cut back on talking and texting, thanks in part to distracted-driving laws, legislation and awareness, according to a new survey.

Nationwide Insurance reports that about 40 percent of drivers who admit to texting while behind the wheel say they do it less frequently than they did a year ago.

Of the 47 percent of drivers who say they engage in phone conversations while on the road, 30 percent reported that they do it less than last year.

While the time spent on these distracted driving behaviors apparently is down, the percentage of people who admit to texting and talking while behind the wheel held steady.

“This is the first survey we’ve seen showing drivers making positive changes in their behavior, but there are still too many drivers who either don’t realize just how dangerous distractions behind the wheel are, or are willing to take that risk,” said Bill Windsor, Nationwide’s associate vice president of Consumer Safety.

Nationwide has done a number of studies on distracted driving behaviors. In this survey, Harris Interactive spoke with 1,005 drivers, enough to provide a representative sample for the nation.

The survey relies on self-reporting, always a problem with illegal or dangerous behaviors. “The stigma now associated with distracted driving may also have fewer people willing to admit they do it,” Windsor says.

Hands-free devices are used by about half of the drivers in the West, where California and Washington are among the states that require their use for motorists using cell phones. In the Midwest, the percentage of drivers who said they used hands-free frequently was only 13 percent.

Overall, 65 percent of the drivers said they rarely or never used hands-free attachments for cell phones.

Other finding in the distracted driving survey:

  • Drivers who made more than $100,000 a year were more than twice as likely to use hands-free devices than those who made less.
  • Two-thirds of those who use hands-free accessories say they feel safer while driving and talking.
  • Drivers with touch-screen cell phones are more likely to talk and text. 40 percent of them say it makes text messaging and dialing easier than with conventional cell phones.
  • Curiously, 18 percent say they have programmed a GPS device while driving, almost the same percent who report that they look for radio stations while behind the wheel.
  • Putting on makeup — often cited as a danger by foes of distracted driving bills — registered with only 3 percent of drivers.

The survey of adults 18 and over was conducted between April 20 and 27.

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