Nearly one out of five U.S. drivers surveyed has read or sent a text message while behind the wheel, even though nearly all of the respondents in an AAA survey released on Friday considered such action unacceptable.
The new technologies that help us multitask in our everyday lives and increasingly popular social media sites present a hard-to-resist challenge to the typically safe driver, AAA Chief Executive Robert Darbelnet said in a statement accompanying the survey commissioned by the AAA Foundation.
Enacting texting bans for drivers in all 50 states can halt the spread of this dangerous practice among motorists nationwide, and is a key legislative priority for AAA in state capitals, Darbelnet said.
The group, which provides emergency road services to its members and lobbies on automobile issues, formerly was known as the American Automobile Association.
The random telephone survey questioned 2,500 U.S. residents 16 and older in April and May.
Although nearly all respondents considered the practice unacceptable, 18 percent said they had sent a text message while driving within a month of being surveyed.
Most data available on texting and driving are anecdotal, but the U.S. Transportation Department is seeking more information as pressure grows to ban the practice. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will hold a two-day conference on distracted drivers next week in Washington.
Separately on Friday, 93 percent of 1,000 licensed drivers responding to a survey commissioned by Ford Motor Co supported a nationwide ban on texting while behind the wheel. AAA says surveys of its members also favor a ban, a step that Ford and other major automakers support.
About a dozen states have imposed prohibitions, and proposals for a national ban have been introduced in Congress.
The wireless industry -- including cellphone manufacturers, carriers, and some Internet companies represented by the CTIA-Wireless Association -- support state and local efforts to ban texting while driving.