SEATTLE - Despite an increasing number of drivers who believe reading and sending text messages while driving is unsafe, the dangerous activity has more than doubled in Washington over the past 18 months, according to a poll by PEMCO Insurance.

The June 2009 poll shows 18 percent of Washington drivers who use electronic devices admit to reading or sending text messages while driving, although University of Utah research suggests such behavior increases the likelihood of accidents eight-fold.

The PEMCO poll also found:

  • Forty-five percent of participants - up from 32 percent last year - are more concerned with the driving distractions caused by text messaging than other distractions like talking on a cell phone, speeding, or driving while tired.
  • Seventy percent of drivers polled believe text-messaging law should be changed from a secondary to a primary offense. Similarly in 2008, 73 percent of drivers agreed texting should be a primary offense.
  • Increased acceptance for Washington's hands-free cell phone law as a secondary offense.
  • Ninety-four percent of respondents are aware using a cell phone behind the wheel is against the law, with a majority reporting that it should only be legal to use a cell phone if using a hands-free device.

A summary of the results collected by this poll is available at

To date, laws against Driving While Texting (DWT) have been implemented in 18 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Click here to view other stories related to this dangerous driving practice and stay tuned for the DWT cover story in the upcoming September issue of Automotive Fleet.