Yes, using smartphones to get on the Internet while driving is a ludicrously bad idea -- and no, apparently we’re not going to stop unless someone hauls us collectively into jail. And then we’ll probably just tweet about how smelly our cellmates are.
More and more people have admitted to using the Internet while driving, according to a new survey from State Farm: the proportion of survey respondents who fessed up to the dangerous activity soared from 13% in 2009 to 24% this year, while the proportion who reported texting while driving edged up from 31% to 35% over the same period.
And that’s not the most alarming part. Prepare to cower in fear, as the proportion of 18-29 year-olds -- or the “dumb generation” as many people call them behind their backs --who reported using the Internet behind the wheel increased from 29% to 49% from 2009 to 2013.
Yes, that means that half of all young adults hop online behind the wheel at least occasionally. And oh yes, you should be terrified. One study of distracted driving by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that texting while driving increases your risk of getting in an accident 23-fold; presumably accessing the Internet, for whatever purpose -- email, social media, (ahem) other -- is at least as dangerous if not more so.
Earlier this year a study performed for the Automobile Association of America by researchers at the University of Utah found voice-to-text dictation is more distracting than using a handheld cell phone or talking to a passenger. And another study by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University found that voice texting is just as distracting to drivers as manual texting.
Happily, some solutions are presenting themselves: as noted in a post earlier this month, the 2014 Nissan Altima offers drivers the option of setting the car’s digital media interface so it sends automatic responses to social media sites or text messages, letting their friends know that they can’t respond personally.