"Webbing" distracts motorists on the road

Distracted driving is a serious concern among transportation safety agencies in the United States. According to Distraction.gov, 3,092 people were killed in car accidents involving a distracted driver in 2010. Furthermore, an estimated 416,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted motorist in the same year.

Distracted driving includes the following practices on the road:

  • Eating or drinking
  • Changing the radio
  • Using a cellphone or smartphone
  • Speaking with other passengers in the vehicle

These are just some examples of distracted driving practices. However, according to a new survey by State Farm, Internet surfing on portable devices is the newest distracted driving issue.

The survey involved approximately 1,000 motorists in July 2012. The practice, also known as "webbing," has increased among younger drivers from 29 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2012. State Farm found that the increase is due to the explosion of smartphones with various Internet-based features.

The study found that among drivers 18 to 29 years old, checking email while driving increased to 43 percent in 2012 from 32 percent in 2009. Additionally, accessing social media networks while driving grew from 21 percent to 36 percent in the same period.

While texting and driving is a distracted driving practice that is most associated with teens, the State Farm survey indicates that motorists of all ages are surfing the World Wide Web while driving. For all age groups, accessing the Internet while driving increased to 21 percent from 13 percent. Furthermore, checking social media networks grew from 9 percent to 15 percent, and updating social networks increased to 13 percent from 9 percent between 2009 and 2012.

While laws are in place to prevent texting, some automakers are trying to reduce dangers by creating systems that allow motorists to connect with the Internet and other persons -without taking visual attention away from the road. However, some argue that automakers are simply encouraging the distracted driving problem by including these features in vehicles.

With the increasing dependence on smartphones and other wireless electronic devices, distracted driving continues to be a serious problem; the practice leads to serious death and injury.

Except for commercial and novice drivers (motorists under 21 years of age), there is no current prohibition on cellphone use while driving in Missouri. Novice drivers are prohibited from texting while driving, and commercial drivers are prohibited from using hand-held mobile phones and push-to-talk cellphones while driving.

Hopefully, the legislature will address "webbing" and other distracted driving issues in future legislative sessions. Until then, if you believe that you have been injured by a distracted driver, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney today.