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Half of Drivers Under 30 Use Internet Behind Wheel

Almost half of drivers from ages 18 to 29 use the Internet behind the wheel, as more people buy smartphones, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. said.

Forty-eight percent of motorists in that age group access the Web while driving, up from 29 percent in 2009, State Farm said in a statement today, citing surveys it conducted.

Insurers such as State Farm, the largest seller of auto coverage in the U.S., have joined regulators in encouraging vehicle operators to increase their focus on safety. In 2010, 3,092 people were killed and more than 400,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

“The mobile internet is generating another set of distractions for drivers to avoid,” said Chris Mullen, director of technology research at Bloomington, Illinois-based State Farm, in the statement. “Regulation, enforcement, education and technology all have a role to play.”

Sales of Apple Inc.’s iPhone jumped 81 percent in 2011 to about 72 million units from about 40 million units a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The National Transportation Safety Board this week identified the elimination of distracted driving as one of its top challenges for 2013. The board is encouraging technology that disables devices when in reach of vehicle operators, including those running planes and trains.

Social Networks

Reading social media networks while driving climbed to 36 percent this year from 21 percent in 2009, for drivers 18 to 29, State Farm said. Checking e-mail rose to 43 percent from 32 percent.

State Farm’s latest survey was conducted online in July. Responses are received from about 1,000 insurance consumers each year. Results are based on responses from people who have a driver’s license, own a mobile phone and are behind the wheel at least an hour a week. State Farm is owned by its policyholders and has no publicly traded debt.

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