Almost all drivers know that picking up a cellphone when they should be focusing on the road poses a major threat. However, that dangerous fact doesn't stop many from participating in the activity. But not all situations are created equal. There are certain circumstances that lend themselves more to cellphone use - according to drivers, anyway - while other scenarios have more recognizable dangers that lead to people keeping phones tucked away.
The conditions matter to cellphone use
To determine when drivers are most likely to whip out their cellphones, State Farm conducted a six-year study focusing on habits behind the wheel. The organization found that there are certain situations where people are inclined to use phones. For instance, about 63 percent of respondents said they were more likely to use a cellphone when stopped at a red light, while another 30 percent said they consider it when on an open highway.
Similarly, there are times when drivers are less likely to embrace technology. Inclement weather plays a major role, as people are hesitant to use phones if it's icy, snowy or foggy. Rain and darkness are significant factors as well, but to a lesser extent than the typical winter weather. According to the survey, about 87 percent of people will hold off if they're in a construction zone and 83 percent will if it's a school zone. Heavy traffic is also a popular deterrent.
"It's interesting to see that many drivers report assessing driving conditions when they make choices
regarding using their cellphones," said Chris Mullen, director of technology research at State Farm. "However, we want to remind people that there are demands on their attention when driving whether moving or not, and to please stay 100 percent focused on their drive."
Other long-term trends
While much of the study focused on when drivers decide to use their phones, another portion emphasized some related details. For instance, State Farm found that, over the past six years, the number of drivers who talk on their cellphones while driving has decreased, which could be due to new laws that ban hand-held phones
. At the same time, the percentage of people who text while driving remained the same.
That may seem like good news on the surface, but there are a few other factors to consider. The study noted that new smartphone capabilities lead to more distractions. Drivers may not be making phone calls, but they are accessing the Internet, browsing through music libraries, reading emails and checking social media.
"These six-year trends make it apparent that smartphones have created many new distractions for drivers to juggle," Mullen said. "While much attention is paid to the dangers of talking and texting while driving, it's critical that we also address the increasing use of other smartphone features and other sources of distraction."
Strike a balance between safety and convenience
Many new cars are being made with technology that addresses the cellphone quandary. Vehicles offer voice-control settings so drivers' hands can remain securely on the wheel, while dashboard interfaces allow people to control entertainment and navigation without fumbling with a smaller device.
For these services to remain an advantage to safety, however, drivers must make sure they are operating effectively. That means having special features examined and cared for just like tires
, the engine and other essential aspects of a car. This can be done as part of an auto tune up
, but drivers need to make sure they are communicating with experts to determine the next step.
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