Attractive Blonde Woman Text Messaging on Her Cell Phone While Driving.

Various auto insurance companies and government transportation departments have espoused serious concerns over the dangers of texting while driving, and a new Rasmussen poll indicates that many adults are getting the message. In a nationwide survey of 1,000 adults, 94 percent said that they opposed texting behind the wheel. Whether or not this is affecting their behavior, though, is up for debate.

In addition, the poll results indicate that Americans are becoming less supportive of using cell phones in general while driving. A 2008 poll had 53 percent of respondents opposing cell phone use in the car and 39 percent in favor of allowing the practice. Now two years later, the new Rasmussen poll shows 66 percent saying that drivers shouldn’t be allowed to use a cell phone while driving and only 29 percent saying that it’s OK.

But despite the overwhelming opposition to texting while driving that is reflected in the poll results, other reports show that a large proportion of the driving public still sends texts from the driver’s seat.

Just yesterday the Insurance Research Council distributed a press release announcing the results of a new study showing that, of 1,400 respondents, nearly one in five reportedly had sent a text while driving in the past 30 days. And other reports on the topic have shown that more than one in three drivers admit to having texted at some point from behind the wheel. Also, that number gets even higher when looking strictly at younger drivers.

To combat this practice, 38 states and the District of Columbia have instituted whole or partial texting bans, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

But the IIHS also reported recently in its Status Report Newsletter that, after surveying loss data in a number of states, it appeared that the bans had no significant affect on crash rates. The U.S. Department of Transportation dismissed this report, saying that the bans can be effective when coupled with effective enforcement.

Although many states now issue citations to drivers messaging behind the wheel, these citations generally do not affect the violator’s ability to secure cheap auto insurance rates, since they generally do not go on a driver’s permanent record.

However, Massachusetts recently instituted a new law under the provisions of which a driver can be surcharged by an insurer if an accident caused by negligent phone use leads to property or bodily damage. Whether other states will follow suit has yet to be seen.