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February 20, 2014 at 11:49 AM

Poll: State drivers busy talking — even texting — on cellphones

Photo: Chris Joseph Taylor/The Seattle Times

Photo: Chris Joseph Taylor/The Seattle Times

Last year, a study of distracted driving in Washington revealed that one in 12 drivers in the state use their cellphones while behind the wheel, and nearly half of those were using them for texting.

The only thing surprising about that data to most folks was how low the number was — just one in 12? Let’s face it. We see drivers doing it all the time.

Well, in a new poll on distracted driving by Pemco Insurance, the numbers are more in line with what you might expect.

Pemco’s survey of 600 drivers in Washington found that one in seven admit to talking on a cellphone without a hands-free device either sometimes or often. Among those under 35, it’s one in four.

Only a bit more than half of Washington drivers — 58 percent — say they never do.

The poll shows that Washington drivers aren’t much better at resisting the urge to text.  One in nine admit to doing that while behind the wheel on a regular basis. Just how dangerous is it that?  Studies show that driving while texting is comparable to having a blood alcohol level of 0.19 percent — it increases the risk of accident by 23 times.

Most of us know it’s wrong — but a surprisingly high number are ignorant of the law.  Less than two-third of drivers surveyed know that texting while stopped at a light is illegal.

What might be most frightening about this survey is that, as we all know, many people are disinclined to admit to engaging in illegal or unsafe behaviors.   So in reality, there could be a lot more cellphone use by drivers here than the survey shows.

Can anything be done to change this dangerous behavior?   A new study from Washington State University suggests that educating people on the risks of texting and driving — plus a bit of scare tactics — might help.  The researchers found that young drivers, after being exposed to public service announcements that include graphic images of death, are significantly less inclined to text and drive.

0 Comments | More in General news, Traffic & Transit | Topics: driving, Pemco, poll

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