Washington drivers may be having second thoughts about the state’s new law governing hand-held cell phone use while driving, a recent poll by Pemco Insurance shows.
In February 2008, prior to the law’s enforcement, the majority of Washington drivers thought the law did not go far enough, allowing police to ticket hand-held cell-phone users only if they are stopped for another, more-serious offense, known as a primary offense. Now, however, law enforcement classify the violation as a secondary offense.
In the most recent poll, results show the number of primary-offense supporters has slipped and now only half of respondents think the law should be more severe.
“Washington drivers recognize that cell phones are a distraction, and our poll results show that most still agree that cell use should be regulated to keep our roads safe,” said Pemco spokesman Jon Osterberg. “The percentage of drivers who support the law as a primary offense has slipped, so we’ll continue to track how the law is perceived.”
Pemco has been tracking awareness and attitudes toward cell phone legislation since February 2004. In February 2008, before the law went into effect, 60 percent of respondents said that talking without a hands-free device while driving should be treated as a primary offense. Now, just three months after using a hand-held device while driving became illegal, fewer drivers — 50 percent — support the violation as a primary offense.
The most recent poll shows that awareness about the law and how it is classified has increased significantly. When polled in February 2008, just 38 percent of respondents understood the law was a secondary offense. Now, seven out of 10 are aware they can’t be pulled over merely for talking on a cell phone. Additionally, 97 percent of those polled were aware that hand-held usage while driving is illegal.
Despite the waning support of more-stringent enforcement of the law, the poll indicated drivers are adjusting their behavior in compliance with the law. One-in-three Washington drivers now report using a hands-free device more often in response to the law, and the same percentage say they talk on cell phones less while driving.
Perhaps not surprising, younger drivers are significantly more likely than their older counterparts to prefer that the law remains a secondary offense. For their part, younger drivers are also more likely to admit that they talk on the phone only if they don’t see a law enforcement person nearby (19 percent versus 4 percent).
For more information on the poll, visit http://survey.pemco.com/.
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