Poll: Washington Drivers Support Cell Phone Legislation

April 11, 2007

Washington drivers believe that talking on a cell phone while driving should be legal only with a hands-free device, or made illegal altogether, according to a poll by PEMCO Insurance.

According to the company’s 2007 PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll, which surveyed 600 Washington drivers, two-thirds believe that talking on a cell phone while driving should be a primary offense, meaning drivers could be cited even if they are not violating other laws.

“Our poll results suggest that people intuitively believe hand-held cell phones are dangerous,” said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg. “It’s always safer to use both hands to control a vehicle. You don’t need a scientific study to confirm that holding the wheel in one hand and a cell phone in the other hinders you from using your turn indicator, shifting gears, or even turning on your wipers.”

Under legislation proposed by Sen. Tracey J. Eide, D-Federal Way, currently pending, it would become a secondary offense to talk on a cell phone while driving, meaning the driver would have to commit another infraction to be cited. The ticket would cost drivers $101 and it would not be reported to insurance companies.

In a 2005 PEMCO poll, 81 percent of Washington drivers said talking on the phone while driving should be illegal, or legal only with a hands-free device. In the current poll, that figure rose to 85 percent. Also, 34 percent of people today “often” or “sometimes” use a cell phone while driving compared to 19 percent in 2005.

“Talking on a cell phone distracts you when driving and the evidence is clear: distractions cause crashes,” Osterberg said. “Anytime you take your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel, you put yourself and other drivers at risk.”

For the past seven years, Sen. Eide has worked to pass legislation that makes it illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving. The bill has already passed through the Senate, but historically it has stalled in House of Representatives.

Similar bills already have passed in California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C., that limit cell phone usage to hands-free devices while driving. Utah’s law goes into effect June 29.

Also under review in Olympia is House Bill 1214, which bans the use of cell phones to send text messages while driving. According to the PEMCO poll, 91 percent of Washington drivers believe that text messaging while driving should be illegal.

To view the poll and results, visit www.pemco.com.

Seattle-based PEMCO Insurance commissioned the independent, statewide phone survey that asked Washington drivers several questions about cell-phone use and other safety issues. The poll was conducted by Applied Research Northwest. The sample size, 600 respondents, yields an accuracy of +/- 4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

Source: PEMCO

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