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Which smart drivers are putting down smartphones?

John Egan

Are younger and older drivers getting the message about talking and texting while driving? It appears they may be.

Results of the 2011 GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test indicate three-fourths of drivers age 16 to 17 and 72 percent of drivers age 60 to 65 have stopped using their smartphones while driving.

Overall, half of the drivers who participated in the test say they’ve eliminated all smartphone use while they’re behind the wheel. Another 32 percent say they’ve reduced their use of smartphones for calling, texting or emailing.

However, not all American drivers are as smart about smartphones, the National Drivers Test shows. Nearly half of all drivers acknowledge making phone calls while driving, and about 15 percent acknowledge sending and reading text messages while driving.

Eight in 10 drivers report never being distracted or even coming close to having an accident as a result of using a mobile device while driving.

The GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test polled 5,130 licensed drivers ages 16 to 65 from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

In a news release, Stan Parker, vice president of marketing at GMAC Insurance, says results of the National Drivers Test suggest that the ban on texting while driving in 34 states “is having a positive influence on drivers.”

“We hope that by calling attention to distracted driving habits,” Parker says, “this dangerous activity will be practiced less and less, and that drivers will continue to place their attention on the roads to stay safe.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says distracted driving was reported in one-fifth of car crashes in 2009 that caused injuries.

Other findings of the National Drivers Test:

  • While stopped at a red light, nearly two-thirds of drivers have made phone calls, and eight in 10 drivers have sent or checked text messages.
  • 50 percent of drivers have made phone calls while in slow traffic or on the open highway.
  • 10 percent of drivers have sent and read emails or used smartphone apps while behind the wheel.
  • About 3 percent of drivers have used their smartphones to take pictures while on the road, and some even have updated their Twitter and Facebook pages.

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