Oh, so you admit it? You’re keeping that cellphone busy while driving.
All the attention on texting while driving overlooks one key point. Drivers readily confess they’re way beyond that.
They’re reading email, taking selfies, checking Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and engaging others through Snapchat and video chats.
Is there no limit to what people do on their cellphones while driving?
Apparently not, according to responses that AT&T Inc. got from a survey of more than 2,000 people, conducted ahead of the road-trip-heavy Memorial Day weekend. Law enforcement officials confirm the findings.
That should give pause to any holiday driver as we enter the summer driving season. Texting while driving has plenty of distracted-driving company.
AT&T’s survey relied on drivers to self-report what they’re doing with phones while behind the wheel. Seven in 10 admit to doing something besides talking.
The No. 1 behavior is texting; 61 percent admitted to that. One-third admitted using email while driving, one-fourth Facebook. One in seven replied they’d gotten on Twitter while driving and one-third of those do it “all the time,” the survey found.
The wireless phone company isn’t the only one hearing confessions. Surveys that State Farm has taken since 2009 show that distractions other than texting have become more widespread.
Its 2009 online survey found 13 percent of drivers admitted accessing the Internet while driving. The rate was twice as high in last year’s survey.
Among younger drivers, 18- to 29-year-olds in State Farm’s survey, reading social media posts distracts 41 percent of drivers. And 14 percent were updating social media networks while driving.
Drivers have told law enforcement officers some rather interesting tales, too.
In Nebraska, a state trooper saw ear buds on a big rig driver and found a cellphone taped to the steering wheel. The driver was watching streaming video of a soccer game on the phone.
Washington State Troopers can pull over a driver who seems to be texting. But no citation follows if the driver can explain some other behavior that accounts for what the trooper saw.
In a video last year, Trooper Clark Jones pulled over one driver and explained that he appeared to be texting while driving. No, the driver said, he was entering information into his GPS app to get directions.
No ticket. No kidding.
“Everything else that you can do on your phone is just as dangerous as texting, but those other behaviors aren’t necessarily illegal,” Jones said in the video.
Another stop shown in the Washington Traffic Safety Commission video involved a driver who denied he was texting. Instead, he was checking his “currency trades” using his phone while a Bellingham, Wash., police officer recorded his car weaving into a bicycle lane.
The Washington state examples and AT&T survey findings highlight the problem with some states’ laws that address the texting while driving threat. They can be too specific.
Missouri and Kansas laws prohibit texting while driving and more, according to state highway patrol officials.
Trooper Tiffany Bush with the Kansas Highway Patrol said any transmission of data on a device while driving would be reason for a ticket.
And phone calls are OK but still likely to draw a trooper’s attention on the road.
“We’ll watch them for a while to see if it’s going to turn into a phone call,” Bush said. “I stopped a lady for taking a picture of some weird carnival contraption (transported on a flatbed truck) during rush hour. She was holding up traffic.”
The citation stuck in court, Bush said.
Missouri’s texting while driving law covers social media and other uses of a phone, such as reading email or text on Facebook and Twitter, said Sgt. Collin Stosberg, a public information and education officer for the Missouri Highway Patrol.
Technically, however, the law applies only to drivers 21 and younger.
The age limit provides some cover for Stosberg’s audiences when he talks about cellphones and driving. He routinely asks for a show of hands and finds large numbers of confessed distracted drivers — beyond texting and driving — and across all ages of drivers.
“The spirit of the law is for all ages,” Stosberg added.
There’s an application of state law for over-21 distracted drivers, too. Stosberg said Missouri’s “careless and imprudent” driving statute works for any driver whose cellphone habits lead to hazardous movements or impede driving.
All four national wireless carriers have joined AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign against texting and driving. AT&T said it is working with Twitter to expand the message to include other uses of cellphones.
On the other hand, AT&T is working with eight car makers to make wireless data connections readily available inside moving vehicles.
In an emailed statement, AT&T said: “Our position is simple. We believe people should always have their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Technology that enables that while allowing drivers to remain connected is good. Otherwise It Can Wait.”
Other apps such as Live2Txt and OneTap offer various features to thwart distracted driving. An app from the Canary Project alerts parents when their cellphone-toting young driver is using the device while driving.
Of course, the easiest fix is to leave the phone alone and drive. Except for one other finding in the AT&T survey: More than one in five who access social media while driving say they’re addicted to it.
To reach Mark Davis, call 816-234-4372. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @mdkcstar.