A new study by insurance giant State Farm found that about 50 percent of drivers between the ages of 18 and 29 are accessing the Internet from their smartphones while they are driving, a figure that has increased significantly with the proliferation of smartphones.
The last time State Farm conducted the survey - in 2009 - it found that about 29 percent of drivers in that age group surfed the Web while driving.
State Farm's study found that all drivers, regardless of age, are checking their e-mail and reading social media more often than before.
Drivers of any age who access the Internet while driving increased from 21 percent from 13 percent, while the percent of drivers who read social media updates is up from 9 percent to 15 percent. Notably, 13 percent of respondents said that they actually update their social media networks while behind the wheel compared to 9 percent in 2009.
"The mobile internet is generating another set of distractions for drivers to avoid," said State Farm representative Justin Tomczak in a statement released to members of the media. "While the safety community is appropriately working to reduce texting while driving, we must also be concerned about the growing use of multiple mobile web services while driving."
This latest survey covered 1,000 motorists who drive at least an hour a week and own smartphones. It was conducted in July. Like most other major insurers, State Farm has long lobbied drivers to reduce potential distractions while driving.
Despite the increased use of mobile internet access while behind the wheel, 72 percent of surveyed drivers said that they would strongly agree with laws prohibiting them from functions more advanced than dialing while behind the wheel. Despite the strong support for such regulation, however, about two-thirds of those surveyed said that they thought any restrictions would be nearly impossible for police officers to enforce.
Support for technology to prevent texting or talking on a phone while driving was at about 45 percent in the survey.