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According to a new report, 19 percent of drivers on the road have admitted to using the internet while driving.

Driving while distracted is a growing concern for road safety officials all over the world. The issue has become such a hot button topic lately that, according to an interview in USA Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has recently shifted up to $50 million away from programs devoted to child occupant safety in order to focus on distracted driving.

Yet according to this latest study by State Farm Insurance, almost one driver in five (of 912 polled) have been browsing the web while behind the wheel.

As internet capable and smart phones become more and more prevalent, the number of related deaths begin to rise. Statistics on a US government site claim the number of fatalities related to driver distraction have risen 11 percent from 2005 to 2009.

While some groups are focusing on getting the message out, others are looking into other ways to keep drivers from being dangerously distracted while on the road.

According to the US government Web site on distracted driving, 30 states have banned texting while driving and eight have banned cell phone use while driving outright.

Enacting legislation on this topic can be complicated. As technology develops, cell phones become capable of distracting us in new ways. Maryland, for example, had a law in the books since 2009 regarding the sending of texts, but drivers were still able read texts and read their Facebook feed until just this week when lawmakers clamped down on use.

The laws are changing constantly, and vary from state to state. For more information on your state's laws, there's a special site called Distraction.gov with state-by-state information. distraction.gov/state-laws

There are also apps being developed that aim to help save lives from distracted driving. One called Text'nDrive reads a user their incoming text messages or emails and allows them to respond through dictation. Others simply sense the speed a user is driving and disables the ability to send texts until they have slowed down to a walking speed.

Google, among others, is hard at work on an autonomous car that is able to sense the world around it and drive itself without any driver input.

Maybe one day using the internet while driving might mean watching YouTube while your electronic chauffeur delivers you to a destination.

author photo

J. Mark Sternberg is an automotive journalist, car enthusiast and writer with a degree from the University of Arizona. Mark is a devoted Formula 1 fan and also enjoys boating, flying and attending the occasional track day.

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