The poll, taken in June 2009 shows that 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. Only six percent of respondents using electronic devices admitted to texting behind the wheel in February 2008.
The poll also showed that while more drivers are tapping messages on cell phones than before, a higher percentage of Washington drivers think the behavior is dangerous.
PEMCO found that 45 percent of those polled 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 - which is up significantly from the 32 percent of drivers who reported their concern for texting in 2008.
The poll also showed that a significant majority of Washington drivers want the laws surrounding texting to be strengthened. Currently, Washington classifies cell-phone related violations as secondary offenses, which means that the driver must be committing a primary violation like speeding to be cited for texting or talking without a hands-free device.
However, PEMCO's June 2009 data shows that 70 percent of drivers believe that the 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.
Surprisingly, when it comes to talking and driving, the poll showed data suggesting an increased acceptance for Washington's hands-free cell phone law as a secondary offense. In 2009, 58 percent support the law as a primary offense, which is down from 60 percent in 2008 and 65 percent in 2007.
This latest PEMCO poll further shows drivers are unclear whether talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving is a primary or secondary offense, with 50 percent incorrectly reporting it as a primary offense.
Overall, 94 percent of respondents do know that 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.
* Employers Direct Insurance Company (EDIC) (www.employersdirect.com) has signed a definitive agreement to sell the renewal rights of its direct placed workers’ compensation insurance policies to GNW-Evergreen Insurance Services LLC (www.gnw-evergreen.com).
Headquartered in Encino, GNW-Evergreen is one of the largest independent insurance brokerages based in Southern California. EDIC has previously announced that they are discontinuing direct sales and plan on distributing their workers’ comp policies exclusively through independent agents and brokers in the future.
EDIC will appoint GNW-Evergreen as a producer in Arizona, California, and Nevada following the close of the sale.