This driver is using two phones at once
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I don’t normally fall for press releases unless they have some new data or information in them that’s interesting. Nationwide Insurance and Harris Interactive conducted a survey recently, though, that stood out in the inbox. It seems 80% of Americans say they would support legislation restricting cell phone use while driving. That doesn’t surprise me.

What surprises me is that cell phones have been around a long time. People have been driving poorly while using them for a long time. Why now?

The salient question is, has Twitter caused an increase in texting and phone use while driving that suddenly has phone use in cars taboo?

Laugh if you will, but text messaging has been around a while, too. And the information I received from Nationwide was heavy on the texting stats. Eighty percent favor banning texting while driving, 66% favor a ban on cell phone calls and more than 50% say they would favor a ban on cell use altogether. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) announced this week it has enacted a new policy encouraging every state to ban texting behind the wheel for all drivers. Nationwide took a stance, but just earlier this summer, to support the concept of a national ban on texting while driving.

The study also showed that more than half of respondents say they see more drivers using cell phones than they did 12 months ago. Does Twitter have something to do with that? Is the iPhone to blame?

While my questions are light and somewhat rhetorical, what do you think?

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • jonnybgood

    Cell phone calls are prohibited by law in Spain (except with hands free), and I suspect in several other European countries. However, I frequently see peole chattering away while I'm wating to cross streets a pedestrian crossings…

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Yep. Kinda like speeding in the U.S. It's against the law, but we do it anyway. Thanks JBG.

  • davidbaldaro

    I don't think that Twitter is to blame – however I do think that it has become more commonplace to try and use your phone whilst driving. Anyone with an iPhone, Smartphone will probably agree that it does so much that you find yourself needing it. Mine for example is guiding me via TomTom to my destination, receiving my email (company and personal), updating my Twitter stream and Facebook info as well!

    In the UK mobile phones are banned in the cars – except with Handsfree – however with the surge in Social media applications on phones these days; people are hard pushed not to use them.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks, David. I'd love to know more data about UK mobile use in cars … safety numbers … usage numbers … is the ban working? Sure, this is all new, but understanding if regulations help is a good way to know what to regulate and what not to regulate. If you happen upon any, let us know! Thanks.

  • johnjmcmahon

    I feel like the publicity surrounding Twitter is making people actually notice this more, rather than there actually being more people doing it. It's like when you notice a certain type of car that you haven't seen before or in a long time and then you start seeing them everywhere. They were already there, but you just weren't tuned into it (example, I didn't notice the massive amounts of Mazda 3's on the road until I started looking into them as a possibility for my next car a few months back).

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Perhaps, John, but I kinda think the sudden mainstream explosion for Twitter might have had an effect on cell phone frequency of use. I'm sure eMarketer or someone is counting something now that will indicate such. Just a hunch.

      • John McMahon

        Thanks for the reply Jason. I can see that Twitter might have caused a rise in frequency of use, but I'm wondering if it is causing more people to text/Tweet (i.e. higher volume of use) while driving, or if it's the same people that were already texting who're just doing it more often via Twitter. Regardless, it will definitely be interesting to see what the results are when someone does a study on this issue.

  • http://www.bravibimbi.it/ Barbapapa

    Hi I'm reading this article from my mobile trying to pay also attention to the traffic jam and asdsad sadsa deqwqdsa fdsa****XZZCCsa
    Oh no! I did a big incident! :-)

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Lord, please don't drag reading SME into the crash test zone. Heh.

  • http://thelostjacket.com Stuart Foster

    Speaking from near death experiences…Yes. Totally it totally is.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      But how do you know they're tweeting? Oh, you're tweeting. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Heh.

  • TeresaBasich

    Texting is actually illegal in my state — holding a phone at all while in the car (even when it's parked) is illegal — but I see little to no enforcement and TONS of people still furiously texting away.

    Twitter contributes somewhat to the problem, but so many people have phones with tons of ridiculous apps and capabilities, I doubt it's that large a contributing factor to the issue. I'd blame the increase in phone use on the road on the iPhone more than on Twitter. Give 'em an inch, they'll take a yard!

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I hear that. Thanks, Teresa.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shawn-Morton/500320191 Shawn Morton

    Thanks for mentioning our survey.

    My anecdotal thought is that our phones are able to do so much more than they used to (text, tweet, update Facebook, use an app, play music, etc.). All of the notifications from each of those uses create more opportunities to be distracted than before. Plus, those new uses also require you to take your eyes off of the road longer than it does to just check the caller ID before you answer a call.

    Not sure how best to affect/change this behavior, but I definitely see a ton of people fiddling with their phone when behind the wheel.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Right there with ya, Smort. How to change the behavior? I don't know. I don't like the idea of making moving cell phones inoperable, though it's probably the only real way to do it. I've moved to a hands free setup in my car and love it. I'm much less distracted driving and have both hands on the wheel. The texting/Tweeting thing is a matter of personal discipline, though. And most people don't do that real well.

  • http://vbpoutsourcing.com KJ Rodgers

    I don't like the idea of banning texting while driving. I know it should make sense not to do it, but what about while sitting a long light. Or you are driving about dusk around I-97 and you start to dial someone, you are pulled over and ticketed for a TWD or a DWT. You would then have to prove that you were not sending 140 characters or less, but rather using you phone in another purpose. Not a good idea while the police office is typing at his laptop while riding your tail at 60mph because he seen a glow.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      There's obviously a lot of gray areas for us to iron out here. I think it's got to be a common sense thing, but most people don't have that. Look at how impossible it is for regular folks to successfully merge. Heh.

  • keachymama

    I live in a state in which cell use without a headset has been illegal for quite some time – but almost every car I see has someone talking on the phone without one. Never have I seen anyone pulled over for using a cell phone without a headset. I have also had the unpleasant experience of being in a car while the driver was checking his email – and returning emails – while he was driving. I was 5 months pregnant at the time, new in the job, and the driver was my boss – who laughed at me when I offered to drive so he could focus on work. (note: I'm no longer in that job)

    Now, I can't throw too many stones because I have been known on occasion to talk on the phone without a headset – particularly since I lost mine a couple of weeks ago and just got a new one today. That said, I use voice-dialing at all times – with or without a headset – and never once have I texted while driving. Have I been tempted? Absolutely; it's the curse of owning a crackberry.

    But just as I scream and yell and honk my horn and shake my fist at someone reading a newspaper or a novel while driving (no joke I've seen this), or at someone shaving or putting on make-up, so to do I do the same when I see someone texting while driving.

    When you're driving, you need to pay attention. Case in point: I was almost in an accident yesterday because I pulled out of a parking lot onto a busy road and the woman in the other lane decided she needed to be in the lane I pulled into – and changed lanes without signaling just as I was pulling into the lane. Had she signaled I wouldn't have pulled out because I'd have seen what she intended to do. Neither one of us was on a cell phone.

    I actually just talked myself into wondering how effective such legislation would be. After all, using a cell phone without a headset is illegal but I see far less use of headsets than without. Changing lanes without signaling is illegal but it's done all the time. The speed limit on I84 through Bristol is 55 but average speed seems to be 80.

    I'm for such legislation, but doubt it would be effective. After all, we don't have enough money to hire enough state troopers to enforce the laws we have – how do we expect them to enforce MORE rules?

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks, K-mama. I understand your point on not enough troopers and too many laws, but we have to do something or those almost accidents are going to start becoming actual ones.

      Honestly, I think this is more about personal responsibility than anything else. We all need to just discipline ourselves to not pick up the phone while driving. If we don't, we're opening the government regulation can of worms. Unfortunately, that's probably where we're going.

      Thanks for the comment.

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  • bill_free

    Agree with Shawn and David that the increased utility of cell phones is a factor, particularly with the number of apps that are useful for travelers. While I'm sure Twitter is a factor, I'd be shocked if it were a significant one. There's simply too much stuff to do with your phone. A shame that driving is a full-time job.

    I think problem has more to do with sheer numbers. Virtually everyone has a cell phone now. For many it's their primary or only telecommunications device. Teen drivers are a great example. They are heavy users of mobile devices and tend to prefer texting to voice. Many have had cell phones for years before they ever get behind the wheel. It's a habit that's very hard to break.

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  • http://sexinads.tumblr.com Michal SÅ‚awiÅ„ski

    Everryone texting during driving cause danger to other people, it's better to talk by phone then text sms or tweets.

  • davidbaldaro

    Try playing this games and see the results for yourself!
    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/07/19/t

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    Using your mobile phone while driving is not good. These drivers are accountable when they figure in an accident, they are not paying attention to the road while driving. It’s so okay to tweet or text – just do so in the proper places.

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