Cell phone use and texting while driving are on the rise along with accessing the Internet while driving — and it’s not just young people engaging in these dangerous activities behind the wheel.

State Farm released its annual research report on distracted driving this week, with troubling findings.

The July 2013 survey of nearly 1,000 motorists shows a significant increase in the percentage of drivers who own smart phones, particularly among drivers age 30 and older. Additionally, the percentage of drivers who access the Internet on their phone while driving has nearly doubled over the past five years, going up from 13 percent in 2009 to 24 percent in 2013.

The use of hands-free cell phones while driving has increased, while the percentage of people talking on a hand-held cell phone or texting while driving has become stagnant over the past three years.

“As smart phone ownership increases for all age groups, the safety community must ensure we are keeping pace with our understanding of the types of distractions drivers face,” said Chris Mullen, director of Technology Research at State Farm. “Much attention is paid toward reducing texting while driving, but we must also be concerned about addressing the growing use of multiple mobile web services while driving.”

When asked for their opinion on ways to encourage drivers to be more engaged in the task at hand, 74 percent of drivers surveyed said they strongly agree with laws or regulations prohibiting texting or emailing behind the wheel. However, more than half believe that laws governing cell phone use while driving are enforced to little or no extent.

To a lesser degree, 44 percent of survey respondents said they are extremely likely to support technology that would prevent texting or emailing on a cell phone while driving.

State Farm said it supports a multi-pronged approach to encouraging more engaged driving. “Legislation, enforcement, education and technology all have a role to play in making our roads safer for all who share them,” said Mullen.

While much of the distracted driving focus has been on young people, the data indicate that the percentage of motorists who own smart phones is increasing for all ages:

  • Ages 18-29: 78% in 2011 to 86% in 2013
  • Ages 30-39: 60% in 2011 to 86% in 2013
  • Ages 40-49: 47% in 2011 to 82% in 2013
  • Ages 50-64: 44% in 2011 to 64% in 2013
  • Ages 65+: 23% in 2011 to 39% in 2013

State Farm asked drivers to share how distracting they find a variety of common occurrences:

  • Hand-held cell phone: very distracting – 34%, somewhat distracting – 46%
  • Hands-free cell phone: very distracting – 14%, somewhat distracting – 43%
  • Sending a text while driving: very distracting – 76%, somewhat distracting – 14%
  • Reading a text while driving: very distracting – 62%, somewhat distracting – 27%
  • Talking with a passenger: very distracting – 4%, somewhat distracting – 41%
  • Reaching for a non-moving object: very distracting – 22%, somewhat distracting – 62%
  • Attending to children in the back seat: very distracting – 41%, somewhat distracting – 29%
  • Pet in lap: very distracting – 53%, somewhat distracting – 20%
  • Reaching for a moving object: very distracting – 61%, somewhat distracting – 31%
About the survey:

The survey has been conducted in August 2009 and 2010, and in July 2011, 2012 and 2013. Only responses from consumers who had a valid driver’s license, owned a cell phone, and reported driving between 1 and 80 hours per week were used when reporting the findings of behavior-based questions. Responses from all respondents were used for the attitudinal questions.