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Increase in Traffic Incidents Lines Up with Increase in Smart Phone Ownership

November 18, 2013

As more and more people trade in flip phones for smart phones, it's creating more problems on the roads.

The offenders, though, might not be as young as you think.

"All the attention has been on the younger people before," said State Farm Insurance agent Gary Albert. "Ten, 15 years ago, this wasn't even an issue. Phones came in a big bag and drained your car battery if you plugged it in."

State Farm is reporting groups of people over the age of 40 years old, including the 65+ group, are buying smart phones faster than any other age group.

"Previously, all the messaging has been about from a media standpoint and even the insurance company standpoint is focusing on the teen driver because the teen driver has the higher propensity for a loss," Albert said.

With the increase in smart phone ownership, there's also an increase in distracted driving and car accidents.

"Multitasking is actually not at thing," Albert said. "You cannot look at multiple things or focus on multiple things at the same time. Your mind switches quickly between one thing and another thing."

Albert says this has been an ongoing issue. The message doesn't need to take the focus off teen drivers; it just needs to expand to include all drivers.

"It doesn't matter if you're using bluetooth or hands free or what have you," Albert said. "The idea is that your mind is in a different place than it needs to be while you're driving."

So as phones evolve, there are many more things that can distract drivers behind the wheel, and that's why State Farm agents say now is the time to get this problem under control.

"If the community starts taking action to change, maybe younger people can change their behavior as well," Albert said.

Albert said teens often inherit habits from their parents, so there's a benefit for everybody on the roads to put the phones down.

"They're going to take away from our attentiveness on the road, so if we could just take our time, put the phone down and wait until we get to wherever our destination is before engaging in looking at something on the Internet or sending a text message or an email, we're all going to be safer for it," Albert said.

The percentage of drivers who access the Internet on their phone while driving has nearly doubled over the last five years, going up from 13 percent in 2009 to 24 percent this year.

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