According to a poll of Washington state drivers commissioned by PEMCO Insurance, the majority use a cell phone while driving, and an even larger proportion think doing so is unsafe, the company said on Feb. 24.The poll shows most drivers believe cell phones cause a dangerous distraction, but fewer drivers take active and effective steps to prevent it. "Cell phones have changed our driving habits, and safety awareness hasn't kept up," said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO Insurance spokesperson. "Drivers believe that a cell phone causes some danger, but they don't know how to balance safety and convenience yet." PEMCO divided the poll results by age, gender, income level, family status and other classifications to look for trends. In the poll, 58 percent of Washingtonians admitted dividing their attention between the road and a cell phone while driving. When asked to rate the safety of using a cell phone while driving, 69 percent rated the activity dangerous or very dangerous. The statistics show that 27 percent of Washington drivers use a cell phone while driving even though they believe it's dangerous or very dangerous. Uneven Use of Safety Techniques When asked about safety techniques such as pulling over to make and receive calls or answering and making only necessary calls, drivers' answers varied. * 80 percent answer or dial only necessary calls* 73 percent tell callers they're driving* 45 percent pull over to answer or make a call* 39 percent use a hands-free deviceOsterberg noted that the high percentage of drivers who make only necessary calls and tell callers they're driving shows an encouraging widespread effort to reduce distraction. However, PEMCO Insurance recommends drivers take more active and effective precautions if they must "talk and drive." "The best way to reduce distraction while driving is simply to not use a cell phone," said Osterberg. "If you must use a cell phone while driving, pull over before making or answering a call, or use a hands-free device to reduce distraction." That recommendation mirrors PEMCO's employee guidelines, announced last July. Also, all PEMCO Claims fleet vehicles have hands-free cell phones.